Floating above the ground, Elamara quietly observed the slumbering human before her.
Sleeping idly without a care in the world, even though she knew he was a mage, she could no longer sense any trace of magic or malice coming from him. Even his daunting presence the night before had disappeared, and were she not looking at him directly, she would not have known that he was there at all.
“Kaidus Paltos…” She spoke his name, whispering it curiously.
While his appearance was that of a young male, he did not carry himself like those she had seen of his age. The feeling he gave off and the way he spoke, it was more akin to someone like that of their father, even an elder within the clan.
Looking to his side, her eyes fell upon Ulamara who was resting peacefully on a bed of grass.
The odd exchanges between the two resurfaced in her mind, along with her own inquiry regarding the human.
Thinking back, Ulamara’s answer had been promptly cut off by the person himself, and because of what was happening at the time, she had thought nothing of it.
Even with Ulamara calling him an “honored one”, the significance of those words had not truly dawn upon her until they were back home.
First it was the quarrel against the Shii about gifts from the entangled troves, and then with their parents for coming into contact with the human.
Ulamara, who had always been careful of what she was saying and had never been a cause for concern or disputes, had actively contended against their elders. And not just for an outsider, but a human. Then there was the portal and everything else since.
As unbelievable as it was, the sudden changes had undoubtedly come after their meeting with the person before her.
Closing her eyes, the events of the previous night easily came to her.
The human’s careful deliverance of them onto the ground.
His snap, bringing about the white world.
Their father’s petrified expression of helplessness.
The human’s brief introduction, followed by an intense resonance.
And then Ulamara’s effortless conjuring of a portal to send their father back.
The oppressive atmosphere that surrounded them then had been enough to keep her questions and curiosity at bay, but now, all she can think about was his true identity.
‘Rhultal Vox Treval AnDargus.’
The name echoed through her core, but she could not understand why he had given them a false name in the first place.
“Last of the An’Daralites…” She voiced curiously, incapable of comprehending what such words even meant. “Heir to the Silver Pla-”
The dreaded sound of a peeved hiss came from behind the human, almost frightening her out of the air.
Barely managing to catch herself, she quickly flew upward as two menacing silver eyes slowly slithered onto the human’s slumbering body.
Though she had glimpsed it in the darkness before, the creature was unlike what she had expected. Now stretching its two pairs of translucent black forewings into the air, it was not just an ordinary serpent, but a beast of the sky. Along its body, the serpent’s sleek black scales were gleaming with an odd and eerie luster.
Casually coiling itself into a pile on top of the human’s chest, the black serpent looked up at her, “Hsssss!!” And hissed again, before turning its attention to their surroundings.
Sensing the atmosphere around them growing denser, she quickly looked in the same direction as the beast.
Along the edge of the human’s crude camp, the soft light of dawn was warping and stretching. Subtle and transparent like a window, before long, a large phrae portal manifested into the world.
“Zirus… get off me.” Kaidus groaned, sensing that a group of new arrivals had intruded upon his makeshift camp. Not just one or two like the previous night, there were at least over a dozen new presences now.
The youngling growled back, but slithered off as he sat up.
Looking beside himself, Ulamara was still sleeping upon the nest of grass that he had pulled together for the young phrae and her sister. Elamara on the other hand, was already up and in the air with a troubled expression on her face.
Following Elamara’s gaze, he easily spotted the group of phraes.
There were sixteen altogether, and they had all stopped at the entrance of his shelter like they were waiting for him. On the grass behind them all, he could see a large elongated chest made of intertwining roots and vines.
Osfurun, the father of the twins was with the group as well. Unlike what it had done the night before, the prideful phrae was now on the ground and standing with the rest.
Along with the guardian, two of the new arrivals also caught his eyes. They were overflowing with mana comparable to that of the twin’s father themselves, and the three of them together were unquestionably the strongest within the group.
Yet his attention did not stall upon them. Instead, he found himself watching an older phrae who was walking to the front of the assembly.
Looking at least a generation or two older than the rest, the worn phrae had a curved horn and a dark body that appeared to be shrouded in shadows. There was a sense of refinement flowing from the phrae, and with just one look, he could tell that it was the “Shii” whom Elamara and Ulamara had been mentioning in passing.
Catching his eyes, ‘Pardon our intrusion,’ The elderly phrae was the first to speak, ‘But am I correct to assume that you are the one who devastated this area of our forest?’
A melodious voice quavered in his mind like a ritualistic chant, and Kaidus calmly straightened himself before nodding, “My apologies.”
A surprised smile carved itself upon the elderly spirit’s dark face. ‘I am Zener En’Tildiarai, last of my Silteil and the Shii of this unruly brood. Might you do me the honor of giving me your name as you have my progeny?’
The sudden introduction took him aback, but with careful scrutiny, “I am Rhultal Vox Treval AnDargus. You may call me Kaidus Paltos, as bestowed upon me by those who have ordained me this body of flesh.” He replied, reciprocating the phrae’s sincerity.
Behind the old phrae, the group hastily took to the air as the grounds upon which they stood began shaking. Instead of doing the same, the elder’s pitch-black eyes lit up and the spirit strolled forward, walking through the soft light that was now glowing with an invigorated luminosity. ‘This is…’ The elder’s voice resounded with wonderment as it reached out to touch the condensing light around them, ‘It is as if the will of the world itself is waking…’
The old spirit’s voice continued but not wanting to interrupt, Kaidus quietly allowed the spirit to postulate.
He had usurped the twin’s father of all its magical prowess in their brief engagement, but this time, it was the result of Vishan’s excitement alone that had brought about the phenomenon.
Watching the old phrae taking in Vishan’s presence, the spirit suddenly ceased its amazement as if realizing something and looked back up at him.
‘Forgive me if I overstep, but what did you mean by your words?’
“It is nothing.” He answered, lips edging upward into a regretful smile upon seeing the curiosity on the spirit’s face, “Merely the unintelligible murmuring of fading memories, and nothing for you or yours to be wary of.”
He had thrown the name out there with the slimmest of hopes, but as he had expected, even an elder of the phraes did not recognize it.
‘Is that so?’
The phrae’s two dark eyes pierced through him, but did not question further. Turning back to the others, the old spirit nodded.
The whole of the group began glowing and mana oozed forth from them all without exception. Like a thick mist, their magics flowed and weaved together into a large visible sphere of varying illuminations before crashing down onto the large chest behind them.
Something anxiously grasped onto his fingers, and he turned to see that Ulamara had woken up and was now hiding behind his hand that he had set on the ground. Elamara had descended to join her, and both were keenly observing what was happening with expressions of puzzlement.
With the unified cluster of mana conforming around the large chest like a viscous liquid, the elder finally took to the air and flew back to it. Placing both of his hands upon the layer of vibrant mana that had completely encased the chest, the elder’s dark body began to glow.
The sound of compressed air sizzled from the chest as the layer of mana surrounding it vanished.
“I see…” Kaidus voiced in amazement.
Leagues above what he had seen being taught at Zorin, the group of phrae had just performed a combination spell.
Utilizing the strength of their numbers, each of the phraes had formed a specific verse of the unbinding magic with their mana. The elder himself had unified all their spells within its body and acting as a conduit, channeled it further with his own to undo the seal on the chest.
It was a flawless demonstration of magic and being a form of spirits themselves, it was something that only the phraes could have accomplished.
“Is that the ‘entangled troves’ you two were talking about?” Kaidus whispered, looking down to the twins.
“One of the two chests from it, yes.”
Elamara answered and Ulamara nodded as the Shii and two others began flying over to them.
“Elamara. Ulamara.” Preceded by a low but effeminate voice, a female phrae did not stop in the air with the other two. Instead, she descended toward the twins. “Are the both of you alright?”
With long brown hair like fertile earth and a body the tone of ember sunset just like Elamara and Ulamara, the female was one of two that had caught his attention earlier.
Veiled in a thin shroud of reddish light, she was still overflowing with power even after what they had done.
“Mam!” Elamara exclaimed, hurrying forward to embrace their mother.
“Ulamara?” The older phrae questioned, her eyes seeking out Ulamara who was hiding behind his hand.
Unlike her sister, Ulamara returned a nod but did not move from her spot.
“Ulamara.” The Shii finally spoke out loud, his aged and collected voice reverberating through them. “I have deemed your ‘honored one’ worthy of our treasures. Do you have any further grievances?”
Without answering, Ulamara ducked behind his hand even more, obscuring herself from view.
“I shall take your silence as having no further grievances.” The elderly phrae turned, “Kaidus Paltos… son of men,” Lowering its head respectfully, “I have been informed about everything that has happened. Whatever your motives are, as an apology for what has been done and a show of gratitude for your mercy, you may take something you desire from what we have gathered over the ages.”
Looking to the now opened chest, he could see numerous items within.
The gleam of sharpened blades, armor from who knows what era, the top of an enchanted helmet, along with various undefinable magical artifacts.
“A treasure of the phraes, is it?” He questioned, and Ulamara tensed up.
“In exchange for my daughter.” The twin’s father brazenly stated, “Now undo whatever it is you have done, and see to it that our daughter comes back to us.”
Kaidus steadied his gaze onto the twin’s father. “As I have said before, you are mistaken. Ulamara is not a prisoner nor is she under any sort of enchantment.”
The young phrae clung even tighter to his hand upon his words.
From in front of them, “Ulamara, is that true?” The mother of the twins questioned, her voice quite surprised by the revelation.
He quickly attempted to move his arm aside to reveal Ulamara for them to see, but the young phrae would not let go. “Ulamara…” He spoke, easily drawing her attention instead. “Remember what you said last night?”
“…” The young spirit lowered her head, but still did not let go.
“Look at them. They have all come for you.” He added, reminding her of his words and her agreement to return, should they come to retrieve her.
“I… I want to… with… -ou…”
She dug her face into his hand, muffling her words.
“Ulamara?” Kaidus called her name again.
“I don’t want to go back. I- I want to stay with… with you.” She answered timidly.
“Haaa?!” Elamara exclaimed aloud and, “Ulamara, what are you saying?” The twin’s mother quickly and anxiously voiced, supplementing the confusion.
Peeking out at her mother, “I- I’m not going back. I want to stay with-”
“Ulamara.” Kaidus interrupted, instantly silencing her. “As I’ve said before, your emotions are not-”
“They are!” The young girl retorted loudly, her determination plain for all to hear. “They are mine and I know it! So please… please don’t make me go back. I don’t want to forget you.”
Confounded by the outburst, “Ulamara… look at me.” He instructed, and she tearfully turned to stare up at him.
Peering into her dark eyes, he could see her ironclad desires begging for him to allow her to stay by his side. It was a yearning, like that of someone who had found self and purpose.
And unable to ignore her resolve, “It is not safe out there.” He calmly warned.
“It is if I’m with you!” The young phrae snappily countered, “Please, I can help. I can be of use!”
“Ulamara! Cease this foolishness!” Osfurun, the twin’s father shouted from where he stood within the air. “As for you…” The phrae hesitated briefly, “take whatever it is you desire from the chest, and begone from our forest.”
Still clinging onto his hand, “Please…” The young phrae tearfully begged again.
He gave the young spirit a smile, “… Your father is right. It is time we ended this and went our separate ways.” Her grasp upon his hand immediately loosened as her face fractured into sorrow.
“I may take anything I want from the chest, correct?” Kaidus questioned, looking to the Shii who had been silent thus far.
“Anything of your choosing.”
“Understood.” Slowly standing up, the young phrae’s disheartened arms left his own and she began weeping. “There is no need for tears.” He spoke, wrapping his hand around her instead and picking her up.
“What are you doing?” The twin’s father bellowed.
With Ulamara sobbing in his hand, he stepped toward the large chest and placed the young phrae inside it, setting her atop a folded chain mail. Without looking at anything else, “For the generous offer conferred to me,” He invoked, and in the chest, Ulamara slowly lifted her tearful gaze to look up at him. “I choose this child.”
Two voices screamed out in unison, their cries sending a shockwave throughout the clearing.
Unleashing his will, multiple layers of light immediately erected themselves around him and the chest.
“In the name of Eis’Murilzen, the First Mother,” He evoked, and Ulamara’s eyes widened as shock and anticipation made their way across her face, “I, Rhultal Vox Treval AnDargus, by the guiding hands of Cayadrin, Virulent Mistress of Bonds and Fates,” The mana within his body began to boil as he fortified his mind, “As the last of my name, I hereby invoke the Pact of Halasiens, Guardian of Eternity.”
His vast strength spilled out around them, and carefully reaching for the young phrae, “Ulamara En’Muryd, Spirit of Will and beloved daughter of Osfurun En’Kalinsor and Kelinthia En’Galite,” He recited, touching the tip of her horn and pricking himself upon its sharpness. “You, are now mine.”
At his declaration, the bead of blood that had emerged from his finger was sucked into the young girl’s horn and her body exploded with light.
With two black eyes still staring up into his own, “F-forever bounded by the roots of Dinasthirea, the E-Errant Tree of Wonder and shattered will of Lovis, I-I am yours.” She repeated, peering into his memories.
Dropping the carcass of the hunter that it had been feasting upon, it turned its attention toward the horizon as its body of flesh shuddered with excitement. Bare and bloodied, a thin smile crept onto its beautiful womanly visage and the creature turned to its surroundings, only to confirm that their voices of disdain were now nonexistent.
Turning back to gaze into the distance, whatever it is that had freed it from its prison of dream had once again made their presence known. The silence of the trembling world around it was evident enough.
With a disinterested glance at the hunter, it calmly and tenderly began licking the blood on its pale and slender arms in an effort to resist the urge of reverting back to its true form.