Young Writers Society

Home » Literary works » Novel / Chapter » Fantasy

16+ Language

The Many Gifts of Malia--Part 81: "The Engagement"

by dragonfphoenix


Warning: This work has been rated 16+ for language.

After the expansive astral plane, the calm familiarity of the fountain was a nice change. Lazuli had been frozen mid-shriek, much to Malia’s pleasure, and we’d headed to our maas after depositing the harpy among the other statues in Malia’s basement. Couriers had been sent to Hasda and Phaeus that training was ended and the lad should prepare to travel. Since this wasn’t an actual Trial, there’d be no announcements or celebratory feasts, which was fine by me.

Malia was almost back to full strength, but she’d strained herself petrifying Lazuli. So we rested by the fountain, Malia bathing her face with its healing waters, as we made our final preparations.

“Ready to tell me why I shouldn’t eat the pigeon now?” Malia said around a splash of water.

I chuckled and leaned back on the fountain stones. “Vehemence like that is hard to come by. It’d be a waste to just throw her away like that.”

Pausing her washing, Malia spread her fingers and scowled at me through them. “Seriously?”

“And…” I held up a finger to forestall any more reprimands. “The Sea Mother and her mate were bound in similar configurations. It’s very likely that Jade not only knows Lazuli, but they were once friends as well. Maybe Jade could help us, er, ‘de-fang’ her.”

Malia humphed. Water stained my robes as she poked me, not bothering to dry her hands. “This is why I give you all the strays.”

Smiling, I grabbed her hand and kissed the back of it. “And this is why I keep you from being needlessly wasteful.”

“Speaking of waste.” She brushed her knuckles against my jaw. “I don’t want to hear a word out of you about my next surprise.”

She had that mischievous gleam in her eyes again. I narrowed my own at her. “What did you do this time?”

Grinning, she splashed more water across her face. “Well, it wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you, now would it?”

I grunted and shoved off the stone. “Something more than getting Hasda a minor posting in the army before he’s able to lead?”

She hummed as she let her wings sag, exposing her shoulders. I set to work, massaging the knots out of her muscles, and she was practically purring in minutes. “Mmm, of course something else. Even if you didn’t know about it, that might surprise you, but it wouldn’t be your surprise.”

“Fair enough.” I didn’t press any further. Malia would never tell me what it was. If I could figure it out on my own, or discover it before the big reveal, that was fair game, but I’d never gotten her to crack. A smile slid across my face. Although I had pulled my own secrets over her during the centuries, the best one being my proposal to her. We’d been paired for a while, unofficially, but all the years of subterfuge and careful planning had paid off with the most priceless expression on her face when I’d popped the question. That had been centuries ago, and the memory still rewarded me with warm, fuzzy feelings.

“You’re thinking too loud,” Malia said. Eyes closed, she tilted her head to the side. “What?”

“Oh, just remembering that night on Carthia Major, all those years ago.”

“You were an absolute ass.” Her hair snakes hissed at me in mock annoyance.

“You still said yes.” I smiled.

“And a crazier decision I’ve never made since.” Her cheeks dimpled from her grin. “You’re lucky I didn’t raze the lot of them. I almost didn’t recognize that it was a mock invasion.”

“Was it the–”

“–‘the way the fires didn’t consume the city, or the chants praising the Gorgon Queen of Carthia?’” she said, echoing the words she’d heard dozens of times before. “No, dear. It was the sheer bafflement that you could’ve been so incompetent to let such a force that close to the main island.”

I kissed her ear. “I pulled the earth out from under you so completely, you couldn’t help but say yes.”

“Smug bastard.” She sighed happily and leaned back. “We do need to talk about Tingin.”

I kept massaging her shoulders. A particularly stubborn knot refused to budge. “What about it?”

She gave me a serious look over her shoulder. “There's a very real possibility that Jade is no longer in the region, and that we won't be able to recover her. The Sea Mother might not need her to free her mate. We also don't know whether Jade is the ‘best option’ or ‘only option.’ And if she’s the latter, the Paedens might off her rather than let Tamiyat take her.”

“I'm prepared for that.”

She gave a long, sad sigh. “Is Hasda?”

I frowned. “He's a smart lad.”

“But it might be a good idea to make sure he understands. He needs to keep his head about him during battle and let us worry about Jade.”

I nodded. “I'll talk to him on the way.”

A crack as a portal opened startled us. Sun-bleached hair frazzled, Phaeus stumbled into the maas ahead of a cloud of smoke. He gave an apologetic smile as we stared at him.

“Er, sorry to interrupt your…private time.” He brushed his hands on his worn, leather apron. “I need to talk to you about Hasda’s armor.”

“You can’t fix it?” I tried to keep rubbing Malia’s shoulders, but she shrugged out from under me to stare at the dwarf blacksmith. With nothing to occupy my hands, I folded my arms.

“Not quite.” He slid a ball-peen hammer from an apron pocket and slapped the peen against his palm in a slow rhythm. “That djinn of his, do you trust it?”

“Of course not,” Malia said, baring her fangs.

“I had a talk with it,” I added. “It’s confined to purely beneficial behavior, including not allowing harm by omission of aid.”

Phaeus blinked. “How did you manage that?”

I shrugged. “Like I said, we had a chat. Still, a healthy dose of skepticism where the djinn is involved.”

“Right, well.” The hammer went back to plapping against his thick hand. “Whatever material it used to bridge the tear, I’ve never seen before. It held up under my hand and seemed durable enough, so I left it well enough alone, but it’s started spreading.”

“How so?” Malia asked, her brow furrowing.

“Like a termite infestation.” Phaeus’ mouth twisted in disgust. “It’s eating its way through the core of the armor. Not quite hollowing it, because the plate rings with a two-tone that sings about the new metal inside the steel, but it doesn’t sit right with me.”

“Will it keep him safe?” I said.

Phaeus pursed his lips and smacked his hammer a little harder. “I think so. But unless I could carve a chunk of the djinn’s material out and run further tests, I won’t know its full limits.”

“Why don’t you?” Malia flicked her wings once, a hand on her chin.

“Because–” He winced as he hit his hand a little too hard. “For starters, I don’t want to compromise the armor’s integrity any more than it’s already been. The djinn’s stuff has held up well enough under duress, based on the sorry state you brought it back in, and I’m not sure I could take a piece out, even if I wanted to. It seems tied to the djinn itself, so there’s a chance carving into it could hurt the djinn and, by extension, Hasda.”

Malia and I had both been on the verge of suggesting he try anyway until he mentioned that last part. Her scowl mirrored my own.

“So,” she said, “the bad news is his armor is being changed from the inside out. What are the benefits? If the djinn is being genuinely helpful, and not simply acting in a way he convinced himself is good, then there has to be a reason why he’s modifying Hasda’s protective gear.”

“I can’t say for certain.” He pulled on a glove to cushion the increased agitation leaking through his hammer. “I’m hesitant to call it inferior celestial steel, because I’m certain it’s better than mortal metals and not as good as divine. But it’s never displayed any magical attributes or enhancing capabilities, even when the djinn came out.”

The burbling fountain served as a counterweight to the strain of my thoughts tugging at one another. My own observations during Hasda’s Second Trial concurred with Phaeus’ assessment. It had been the djinn that had empowered Hasda, and not the strange, fleshy metal that had faded from the ugly, scar-tissue purple to a pale lavender as the surface had smoothed. If the weaponsmith thought the structural integrity of the armor hadn’t been impaired, then it would still keep Hasda safe. I trusted Phaeus’ assessment more than the djinn’s coerced oath.

But that left us with the uncomfortable why. I’d never heard of a djinn absorbing or replacing its vessel like this, so unless this was a natural consequence of the djinn being forced to repair the armor it had bonded to, then the supplanting had intent behind it. Even if the djinn had told the truth, and he was wholly constrained to helping Hasda, I would still need to keep an eye on my boy during this next excursion. No reason to let him suffer because his armor suddenly failed.


Note: You are not logged in, but you can still leave a comment or review. Before it shows up, a moderator will need to approve your comment (this is only a safeguard against spambots). Leave your email if you would like to be notified when your message is approved.







Is this a review?


  

Comments



User avatar
3299 Reviews


Points: 350316
Reviews: 3299

Donate
Wed Aug 17, 2022 9:16 pm
HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: Okay...this was another really interesting balanced chapter. We got to see more adorable moments, ones that were genuinely adorable enough that I'm worried something is going to make it all come crashing down later on, and of course we also had a healthy dose of new problems to think about, although once again a lot of these are simply making earlier introduced problems a little clearer as opposed to being completely new ones which is a good sign that we are heading for some conclusions here.

Anyway let's get right to it,

After the expansive astral plane, the calm familiarity of the fountain was a nice change. Lazuli had been frozen mid-shriek, much to Malia’s pleasure, and we’d headed to our maas after depositing the harpy among the other statues in Malia’s basement. Couriers had been sent to Hasda and Phaeus that training was ended and the lad should prepare to travel. Since this wasn’t an actual Trial, there’d be no announcements or celebratory feasts, which was fine by me.

Malia was almost back to full strength, but she’d strained herself petrifying Lazuli. So we rested by the fountain, Malia bathing her face with its healing waters, as we made our final preparations.

“Ready to tell me why I shouldn’t eat the pigeon now?” Malia said around a splash of water.

I chuckled and leaned back on the fountain stones. “Vehemence like that is hard to come by. It’d be a waste to just throw her away like that.”

Pausing her washing, Malia spread her fingers and scowled at me through them. “Seriously?”

“And…” I held up a finger to forestall any more reprimands. “The Sea Mother and her mate were bound in similar configurations. It’s very likely that Jade not only knows Lazuli, but they were once friends as well. Maybe Jade could help us, er, ‘de-fang’ her.”


Okay...well that's a lot to think about for the start of this chapter. At least it does seem like none of this has lead to any particular complications here. I was worried something might happen there simply because it has been a while since we had any extremely dangerous complications.

Malia humphed. Water stained my robes as she poked me, not bothering to dry her hands. “This is why I give you all the strays.”

Smiling, I grabbed her hand and kissed the back of it. “And this is why I keep you from being needlessly wasteful.”

“Speaking of waste.” She brushed her knuckles against my jaw. “I don’t want to hear a word out of you about my next surprise.”

She had that mischievous gleam in her eyes again. I narrowed my own at her. “What did you do this time?”

Grinning, she splashed more water across her face. “Well, it wouldn’t be a surprise if I told you, now would it?”


Well...I have no idea how dangerous this surprise is going to be, knowing Malia it could be so many different things, but I am definitely loving how things have gotten underway here especially given we get to know of all of this through a adorable moment. I have a feeling we're not going to get a lot of those once this actual battle gets underway so we must enjoy while it lasts.

I grunted and shoved off the stone. “Something more than getting Hasda a minor posting in the army before he’s able to lead?”

She hummed as she let her wings sag, exposing her shoulders. I set to work, massaging the knots out of her muscles, and she was practically purring in minutes. “Mmm, of course something else. Even if you didn’t know about it, that might surprise you, but it wouldn’t be your surprise.”

“Fair enough.” I didn’t press any further. Malia would never tell me what it was. If I could figure it out on my own, or discover it before the big reveal, that was fair game, but I’d never gotten her to crack. A smile slid across my face. Although I had pulled my own secrets over her during the centuries, the best one being my proposal to her. We’d been paired for a while, unofficially, but all the years of subterfuge and careful planning had paid off with the most priceless expression on her face when I’d popped the question. That had been centuries ago, and the memory still rewarded me with warm, fuzzy feelings.


Aww...well that isn't something we have seen to much of before, an actual fond memory from the two of them playing out in some level of detail. The only thing now is that the more adorable these moments get, the more I'm just waiting for the other shoe to drop here and for us to once again be thrust into a whole section where they are separated for a while.

“You’re thinking too loud,” Malia said. Eyes closed, she tilted her head to the side. “What?”

“Oh, just remembering that night on Carthia Major, all those years ago.”

“You were an absolute ass.” Her hair snakes hissed at me in mock annoyance.

“You still said yes.” I smiled.

“And a crazier decision I’ve never made since.” Her cheeks dimpled from her grin. “You’re lucky I didn’t raze the lot of them. I almost didn’t recognize that it was a mock invasion.”

“Was it the–”

“–‘the way the fires didn’t consume the city, or the chants praising the Gorgon Queen of Carthia?’” she said, echoing the words she’d heard dozens of times before. “No, dear. It was the sheer bafflement that you could’ve been so incompetent to let such a force that close to the main island.”


Hmm...well that does sound it probably took a lot of planning there. Definitely not the sort of proposal you can plan overnight. Its a wonderful moment too, Charax finally managing to actually pull one out from under the person whose entire job seems to be pulling things out from under people.

I kissed her ear. “I pulled the earth out from under you so completely, you couldn’t help but say yes.”

“Smug bastard.” She sighed happily and leaned back. “We do need to talk about Tingin.”

I kept massaging her shoulders. A particularly stubborn knot refused to budge. “What about it?”

She gave me a serious look over her shoulder. “There's a very real possibility that Jade is no longer in the region, and that we won't be able to recover her. The Sea Mother might not need her to free her mate. We also don't know whether Jade is the ‘best option’ or ‘only option.’ And if she’s the latter, the Paedens might off her rather than let Tamiyat take her.”


Well...that adorable moment shifted into an actually serious problem kind of fast there. I suppose that was inevitable. There is only so long that you can spend reflecting on amazing old memories when there is a literal war about to be fought, or I suppose in fact already being fought to some extent.

“I'm prepared for that.”

She gave a long, sad sigh. “Is Hasda?”

I frowned. “He's a smart lad.”

“But it might be a good idea to make sure he understands. He needs to keep his head about him during battle and let us worry about Jade.”

I nodded. “I'll talk to him on the way.”

A crack as a portal opened startled us. Sun-bleached hair frazzled, Phaeus stumbled into the maas ahead of a cloud of smoke. He gave an apologetic smile as we stared at him.

“Er, sorry to interrupt your…private time.” He brushed his hands on his worn, leather apron. “I need to talk to you about Hasda’s armor.”

“You can’t fix it?” I tried to keep rubbing Malia’s shoulders, but she shrugged out from under me to stare at the dwarf blacksmith. With nothing to occupy my hands, I folded my arms.

“Not quite.” He slid a ball-peen hammer from an apron pocket and slapped the peen against his palm in a slow rhythm. “That djinn of his, do you trust it?”


Okay....well it seems like that's going to complicate matters. I almost didn't think of the impact of the relationship. It feels like its been so long since that moment all the way back before this whole second trial situation even began. And it also seems like we've got an interesting report here based on this armor, I'm not surprised to see Charax looking more into but I was not quite expecting it here.

“Of course not,” Malia said, baring her fangs.

“I had a talk with it,” I added. “It’s confined to purely beneficial behavior, including not allowing harm by omission of aid.”

Phaeus blinked. “How did you manage that?”

I shrugged. “Like I said, we had a chat. Still, a healthy dose of skepticism where the djinn is involved.”

“Right, well.” The hammer went back to plapping against his thick hand. “Whatever material it used to bridge the tear, I’ve never seen before. It held up under my hand and seemed durable enough, so I left it well enough alone, but it’s started spreading.”

“How so?” Malia asked, her brow furrowing.


Okay...yeah that definitely does not sound like the sort of thing you want to have in a chestplate, and given exactly what is causing this particular phenomenon, it definitely does not seem like the sort of thing that is going to be particularly healthy here.

“Like a termite infestation.” Phaeus’ mouth twisted in disgust. “It’s eating its way through the core of the armor. Not quite hollowing it, because the plate rings with a two-tone that sings about the new metal inside the steel, but it doesn’t sit right with me.”

“Will it keep him safe?” I said.

Phaeus pursed his lips and smacked his hammer a little harder. “I think so. But unless I could carve a chunk of the djinn’s material out and run further tests, I won’t know its full limits.”

“Why don’t you?” Malia flicked her wings once, a hand on her chin.

“Because–” He winced as he hit his hand a little too hard. “For starters, I don’t want to compromise the armor’s integrity any more than it’s already been. The djinn’s stuff has held up well enough under duress, based on the sorry state you brought it back in, and I’m not sure I could take a piece out, even if I wanted to. It seems tied to the djinn itself, so there’s a chance carving into it could hurt the djinn and, by extension, Hasda.”


Well...that certainly puts a damper on any potential science experiments which of course is just perfect for putting the potential integrity of the armor in enough of a flux that there is no telling at what point during the plot its going to randomly just break and cause all sorts of havoc.

Malia and I had both been on the verge of suggesting he try anyway until he mentioned that last part. Her scowl mirrored my own.

“So,” she said, “the bad news is his armor is being changed from the inside out. What are the benefits? If the djinn is being genuinely helpful, and not simply acting in a way he convinced himself is good, then there has to be a reason why he’s modifying Hasda’s protective gear.”

“I can’t say for certain.” He pulled on a glove to cushion the increased agitation leaking through his hammer. “I’m hesitant to call it inferior celestial steel, because I’m certain it’s better than mortal metals and not as good as divine. But it’s never displayed any magical attributes or enhancing capabilities, even when the djinn came out.”


Well...that's an observation that will definitely need to be kept in mind I think, especially given the nature of the situation that this lot is currently preparing to head into here. This is almost certainly not going to end up going terribly well here.

The burbling fountain served as a counterweight to the strain of my thoughts tugging at one another. My own observations during Hasda’s Second Trial concurred with Phaeus’ assessment. It had been the djinn that had empowered Hasda, and not the strange, fleshy metal that had faded from the ugly, scar-tissue purple to a pale lavender as the surface had smoothed. If the weaponsmith thought the structural integrity of the armor hadn’t been impaired, then it would still keep Hasda safe. I trusted Phaeus’ assessment more than the djinn’s coerced oath.

But that left us with the uncomfortable why. I’d never heard of a djinn absorbing or replacing its vessel like this, so unless this was a natural consequence of the djinn being forced to repair the armor it had bonded to, then the supplanting had intent behind it. Even if the djinn had told the truth, and he was wholly constrained to helping Hasda, I would still need to keep an eye on my boy during this next excursion. No reason to let him suffer because his armor suddenly failed.


Well yup Charax definitely did a better job of summarizing my concern and it is good to see that he does immediately spot the problem and then focusing on being aware of it. It gives me hope that this isn't going to end too horribly, but then also Charax very much acknowledging the possibility does make it feel somewhat scarier for poor Hasda.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: And well this sort of holding pattern of chapters continues with us slowly getting more developments on things and these somewhat lighter tasks of getting prepared happening amongst a good dose of adorableness. Let's see where this manages to take us next.

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry




User avatar
1113 Reviews


Points: 91472
Reviews: 1113

Donate
Fri Jun 24, 2022 2:25 pm
View Likes
IcyFlame wrote a review...



Hello hello! I'm back for another round :)

It was really nice to see some moments between Charax and Malia in this chapter. I don't think I'd fully appreciated the nature of their relationship before (which again, totally on me for not reading prior chapters) so I didn't actually realise they were together! Is it normal for them to spend so much time apart given their long lifespans or has this been an unusual time for them?

Nitpicks

Still, a healthy dose of skepticism where the djinn is involved.”

This doesn't feel like a complete sentence.

“No, dear. It was the sheer bafflement that you could’ve been so incompetent to let such a force that close to the main island.”

This also didn't quite make sense to me. I'm not sure if it's the sentence structure, but I think it might need a tweak.

We've spent quite a few chapters focusing on other characters so I'm glad to be back to Hasda and I'm hoping this mention of him means he'll be making an appearance in one of the upcoming chapters!

I thought this one was a real change of pace and it was welcome. The reminiscing between Malia and Charax both helped me to understand their characters more but also reminded me that's there's such a vast history beyond anything that happens in this story, which I think was a nice touch. Can't wait for the next one!

Icy




User avatar
551 Reviews


Points: 60400
Reviews: 551

Donate
Sat Jun 04, 2022 1:34 am
View Likes
Plume wrote a review...



Hey there! Plume here, with a review!!

Ooh, what a good chapter! We got some Charax/Malia moments (not sure if I've contemplated a ship name before—Charlia? Marax?) and some interesting revelations about the djinn. Certainly curious what's happening with Hasda's armor—that's something that definitely has the potential to betray our hero in a crucial moment. Even with Charax's deal with the djinn, I can't help but be suspicious.

I loved the softness between Malia and Charax in this chapter!! The little anecdote about the proposal was super cute, and it has me craving a spin-off series about their relationship when they were still "young." I am curious, though—they are married, correct? Because in the beginning, when Charax was still retired, I got the sense that he was estranged from Malia in some way, and that she was more of this sort of foil to him. I got the sense that they hadn't seen each other in person in a long time. I guess I'm just kind of asking how godly marriage works-- were they just separated? Or were they still together, just doing a long-distance thing? You've got me curious now!

Also on the topic of relationships, I do hope nothing bad happens to Jade. Not sure I could stand Hasda's reaction. I did like how Charax and Malia expressed concern over how he might react, though; to me, it was a sweet moment.

I also enjoyed Phaeus' mannerisms. Having him hit the hammer against his hand was a nice way to incorporate some continual action in this scene, and it was a nice detail that felt unique yet small and worked nicely to add some layers to the scene.

Overall: great job!! Looking forward to the next chapter, where I believe we'll see some of Hasda? Until next time!!






Thanks!

Lol, I don't think we've discussed the ship name. I have no idea what a good blend would be.

Yeah, they're back to married now. When Charax retired, he basically relinquished all ties to the pantheon and those within it, hence the distance at the beginning. He wasn't planning on coming back (Malia says "lol"), but their bond revitalizing and Charax healing from his absence renewed it.

Hasda is coming soon!




The inner machinations of my mind are an enigma.
— Patrick Star