Born Immortal Chapter 37

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 "You have so much of your mother in you."

 Astyr clenched her jaw as Queen Elianna spoke. Spending the afternoon with a woman who had tried to kill her was proving to be very difficult. Astyr's nerves were on edge and she was feeling a pounding throb in her temples as she tried to focus on the conversation with her grandmother.

 "What was my mother like when she was my age?" Astyr asked, burning with curiosity. She was starting to feel very anxious about meeting her mother now that it looked possible. Tyr and Grima had come home the day before for showers and fresh supplies, leaving very good news on their progress in the search for the shack where Arianna was being held prisoner. Astyr couldn't wait for the weekend so she could get back out into the woods and join the search, but she had two more days of school to get through, and another of her grandmother's afternoon visits.

 It was slightly unnerving to think of the queen as her grandmother; Elianna didn't appear to be any older than her late twenties, maybe early thirties if she was having a bad day but that didn't happen very often. She was shorter than Astyr and very slender; she could have easily been an actress were it not for the fact that she turned her perfect nose up at the thought. There were similarities between Astyr and Elianna, but Astyr's Aesir genes had given her a more solid bone structure and less of the ethereal qualities that so many of the Alfar had.

Elianna gave a sigh before she answered, "Your mother was a disappointment. She was willful and outspoken and had an opinion on everything just to get on my nerves. She never could settle down and just do her duty."

 Astyr couldn't see how any of that made her mother disappointing; personally, Astyr was proud to be the daughter of someone who wasn't afraid to speak her mind. It was a quality that Astyr had never been able to muster up growing up as she had in a chain of foster families. Before moving in with Grima, Astyr had been far too afraid of being moved to yet another family to risk speaking out and drawing even more unwanted attention to herself.

 "Wouldn't those be good qualities to have for someone who's going to be a queen someday?" Astyr knew very well what her grandmother's opinion on this subject would be, but she couldn't resist asking just to show her support for her mother's youthful rebellion.

Elianna gave Astyr a considering glance before replying, "There is a big difference between being a queen and being in line for the throne. You would do well to remember that. Our people do not want a leader who is rash and unpredictable. They want order and tradition, responsibility and respectability. Arianna wanted to drag the Alfar people into the modern world against their wishes."

 "But you do live in the modern world." Astyr interrupted, "I'm sure there are very few Alfar who don't drive cars and use cell phones and fly around the world in planes. How can you call that tradition and how can you survive if you don't adapt to the world around you?" Adapting for survival was something Astyr had always had to be good at during her childhood. She just couldn't understand her grandmother's staid stance.

 Elianna glared at Astyr silently, making a point of pausing to see if Astyr was finished. Astyr just sat and waited, determined not to falter under the icy stare.

 "Cars, phones, and planes are just things," Elianna said in a hard tone, "They are nothing but tools that we use to make life easier. It is our people's attitudes and beliefs that must adhere to tradition in order for our culture and way of life to survive."

 Astyr didn't have a reply to that. The truth was, she didn't really know all that much about the Alfar belief system and culture. She had never had enough time to learn any but the most basic of things from Laure. All of their time had been spent learning physical things like how to manipulate energy. With the threat of Loki hanging over the house, it had been by far the more important thing to study. Astyr felt that perhaps she could take the time to learn about her mother's people before she judged them all. It was just too easy to think that they were all like Elianna and Glin, but Laure wasn't and Astyr told herself to remember that.

 Elianna cut through Astyr's thoughts, "I never wanted Arianna to be unhappy, I just wanted to prepare her the best way possible for her future. She is my eldest daughter and as such, she is the heir to my throne. I will not be queen forever; Arianna has always known that the day would come when she would have to take my place and do her duty for our people."

 "But what about the law?" Astyr asked in confusion, "What about her marrying my father? I thought it was against Alfar laws to marry an Aesir and have half-blood children? What will happen when my mother is found?"

An irritated look crossed Elianna's face for the briefest of moments before she regained her regal countenance and answered. "Yes, well, it is in fact against our laws and Arianna would normally have been subject to the harshest of punishments. However, an Alfar Royal can only be judged in a criminal matter such as this by the entire judicial council of the Alfar and there were quite a few members who refused to sit for this case."

 Astyr's eyebrows shot up in surprise and she fought to keep a smile from breaking out across her face. "You mean they refused to sentence their queen's daughter to death," Astyr said bluntly.

 A small, and extremely rare smile flitted around the corners of Elianna's mouth. "Well, yes," she said, "they did. There was also some mention, though, of the wisdom of bringing charges against Tyr's wife." Elianna gave Astyr a penetrating glance before continuing, "Your father is both well-thought of and greatly feared among our people. Your mother couldn't have given you a better gift than that. Whatever difficulties you may face when you are among our kind because of your mixed breeding, the merest whisper of your father's name will sweep them away."

 Astyr didn't really think she'd be spending that much time among her mother's people; at least, not if she had any choice in the matter. Dealing with the Alfar sounded like a lot more trouble right now than Astyr thought she needed. Plus, she was happy here. This was the very first time she had ever felt at home and she was hoping she'd be able to stay here for a while.

 Astyr's train of thought was brought to a halt as Hakon entered the library where she was sitting for her visit with her grandmother.

 "I'm terribly sorry to interrupt, Your Highness," he said respectfully to Elianna, "but we just received a phone call from Grima. They've located the shack."

Elianna quickly stood up as if prepared to go straight away to where her daughter was being held. "How long will it take us to get there?"

 Astyr, also on her feet now, turned to Elianna in surprise. "You're coming, too?" she asked in amazement.

 "Of course I am," the queen said impatiently, "Do you expect me to sit here and let you children rescue my daughter?"

 Astyr tried unsuccessfully to smother a laugh; the thought of her delicate grandmother in battle was more than a little amusing. That laugh died suddenly as the memory of Elianna almost killing her rose to the surface of her mind. Queen Elianna wasn't anywhere near as fragile and delicate as she looked.

 Elianna gave Astyr one quick, disapproving glare before turning back to Hakon. "When are we leaving?"

 "As soon as we're all ready," he answered smoothly, "If the two of you would just like to change into something suitable, we can be there in just a few hours, as long as you don't mind me breaking the speed limit."

 Elianna laughed out loud, "I'd rather insist on it, under the circumstances."

Astyr went up to her room with her mind buzzing. This latest visit had given her a whole new perspective of her fearsome grandmother, and a lot of things to think about. Later, she told herself; she'd think about all of this after she got her mother back.

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