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Ashes of this world

Chapter Text

It all started with an explosion, a strong explosion into absolute nothingness that had generated everything, including this world. From its core, then, he was born, already an adult, tall, perfect, his name was Gyntaf. Straight hair down to his feet, the same color as his lashes, golden eyes, pale and white complexion and on the top of his head stood proud auburn and white horns. It was neither male nor female, but it was also both.

It contained within itself every Primary Source: the Earth, the anchor of the worlds, the Ocean, the food of the worlds, the Sky, the vault of the worlds, the Sun and the Moon, the lights of the worlds, and the Stars, the future of the worlds.

And it is from the latter that he generated the first being endowed with a complex thought process.

Aaravos was his name, its meaning was First of the Avi.

But this was lonely and sad, so it also spawned a second being, Aeravos, she was the Second of the Avi

From their union the first elves were born, the Startouch elves.

Finally, he created the Archdragons, very powerful and very intelligent creatures that would have watched and ruled over the world.

 


 

Years passed, then millennia and, finally, aeons.

The Startouch elves had reached the pinnacle of technology, science, and magic.

They had created, with the guidance of the Star Archdragons, a land named Xadia.

They had managed to harness the power of the Primal Sources in places called Nexus.

The Moon Lake and the Earth Tower to the West; the Sun Forge and Storm Spire to the east and Malestrom in the South Seas. Finally, in dreams, the Startouch elves had erected the invisible village of Breuddwyd y Gyntaf.

However, many elves and Archdragons also settled among other Nexus, changing their natures to suit the specific Primordial Source of the place.

Thus were born the Moonshadow elves, the Sunfire elves, the Earthblood elves, the Skywing elves and the Tidebound elves, as well as the Archdragons of the Sun, of the Moon, of the Earth, of the Sky. and the Sea.

But all of a sudden, a new being appeared, neither animal nor elf, but human.

Not descended from Gyntaf, mankind did not have access to the Primordial Sources, nor did they have special physical abilities.

What distinguished them was their tenacity; a feature that ended up intriguing Aaravos, pushing him to get closer to men.

This acquaintance, however, was fatal to him: he was corrupted by the dark soul of humans, always full of evil feelings and immoderate passions, and transmitted this feelings to the other elves, making them more like the new creatures. Which offended Gyntaf.

But the final affront Aaravos made to Gyntaf was the creation of Dark Magic.

This was fed with the vital energy of other magical creatures and manifested itself in all forms of evil, making the soul of those who used it worse and worse.

Marginalized by his own kind, Aaravos went to live with humans and taught them Dark Magic.

Blinded by this available and inexhaustible power, the humans let themselves be overcome by greed and began to persecute magical creatures to extinction, to steal as much energy as possible from them.

Even Aaravos was seized by the delusion of power and Dark Magic was no longer enough for him. He then went to his creator Gyntaf and stole much of the power that it had acquired from the Primary Sources, thus becoming able to create at his will.

He threw Gyntaf into the mortal world. Here, it fell into a deep sleep, but, before falling asleep it managed to create, using the little power it had left, Avizandum, Archdragon of the Sky, to which it assigned as the only reason of life to defeat Aaravos, taking advantage of his inexperience in the magic of the other Primary Sources.

 Nonetheless, just to be able to capture Aaravos, Avizandum needed the help of the other Archdragons and elves.

The Startouch elves created in the form of a mirror a dimension of its own and the key necessary to open it, which functioned simultaneously using the power of all the Primordial Sources held only by the Archdragons.

Aaravos was trapped and his memory cursed. Everything that concerned him was destroyed. The books were subjected to enchantment: from that moment on, if anyone sought information on the "King of Thieves", as Aaravos was called by the elves, every page would immediately become blank, devoid of any mark.

The biggest problem, however, remained the disappearance of Gyntaf and his powers.

With his presence, Gyntaf kept the world in balance. In any case, it was necessary to find a being powerful enough to take Gyntaf's place, otherwise, within a few centuries, the world would be left with nothing but ashes.

 


 

Gyntaf woke up.

It was lying on a soft bed, in a room lit only by the fire crackling in the fireplace.

It was a small but cozy room. Near the wooden door was a table with two chairs on which lay a soup that had long since quit smoking. Empty candle holders were posted on the wooden walls and in the corner there was a door with the inscription "Latrins".

Looking down at the floor, Gyntaf saw, on the carpet at the foot of the bed, the most beautiful being it had ever seen.

She had brown hair tending to black and a mole, just below the eye stood out on the pink skin, accentuating the beauty of her face. Her head was resting on crossed arms as if on a makeshift pillow. Her plump pink lips were slightly parted and, in her sleep, there were short, silent rhythmic sighs. Her lean body, huddled in the rectangle of the carpet, was perfect and athletic. Finally Gyntaf saw them. That being's ears were rounded. It was, therefore, a human, indeed a woman, judging by the conformation of the breast suitable, as for other living species, to breastfeed the young.

Yet there was something strange. Not only had this human evidently saved and healed it, but not even the slightest trace of Dark Magic could be perceived from her.

Suddenly without realizing it, Gyntaf felt a feeling for the first time. It did not understand what was happening, but it felt an immense strength within itself, it could move mountains and, at the same time, it could not take its eyes off the person who lay asleep at its feet.

Gyntaf continued to observe her minutely and studied every feature of her face because it wanted never to forget it, but in its heart Gyntaf knew that it could not forget it: if it did, it would hate itself forever.

It had been minutes or hours, Gyntaf did not know, when the young woman woke up and what she saw first were Gyntaf’s golden eyes contemplating her in delight. Instantly she jumped up and walked away, frightened.

It felt a strong heat coming to its face and seeing the human's cheeks redden, it thought that the same thing had happened to her too.

"Y ... you are one of those with pointy things ..." the human said, looking away.

"Don't you like my ears?" Gyntaf answered, knowing every language in the world.

"I meant ... I meant the horns."

What was strange about his horns? Not knowing what to answer, Gyntaf fell silent without being able to take his eyes off her. Then, suddenly he felt that something was happening in his groin.

Removing the blankets, he noticed that there was now something that wasn't there before and which he shared with the male elves. His brain must have determined his sex in consideration of the fact that he had a woman next to him and his body had changed accordingly.

Even more confused also by what was happening in his body, Gyntaf did not notice that the woman had turned her back to him abruptly, until she asked him to cover himself.

Although he did not understand why he should do it - the elves were not ashamed of any part of their body; human oddities, probably - Gyntaf pulled the blankets back above the waist ...

"Now ... can you tell me your name?" he asked the woman, who in the meantime had returned to look at him.

"Sarai," the woman replied with a lopsided smile, still embarrassed.

"Sarai. How sweet your name is. Mine is Gyntaf. I'm happy to meet you."

The woman, though a little confused, said:

"You know, I didn't know an elf could be so polite."

"Nor did I believe I would ever meet a human as beautiful and gentle as you," Gyntaf said before he could process what he said.

This time Sarai turned to the fireplace to hide her blush.

"So ... what kind of elf are you?" she asked.

"None," Gyntaf replied.

"Impossible. You have pointed ears and horns. You can only be an elf. You're white, so maybe a Skywing? "

"I repeat, I am not an elf."

At Sarai's questioning gaze, Gyntaf began to tell his own story, ever since he was born.

When the story was over, Sarai, who had been serious the whole time listening carefully to Gyntaf's words, said.

"This explains why I found you half dead on the side of the road."

“What about being the origin of life itself? Nothing to complain about? " Gyntaf chuckled.

“Well, you are not an elf or a human. As incredible and shocking as what you have told me is, I have no reason not to believe you. "

She was wonderful and kind. Beside her he felt comforted, safe. He felt that he had a place now, and next to her, next to a human, a rose among the brambles.

Then, Gyntaf made a decision. He decided that, from then on, he would live as a human.

He grabbed his horns at the base, gritted his teeth and, under Sarai's bewildered gaze, pulled downward.

With a loud crack, Gyntaf's horns snapped and for the first time he saw his golden blood gush. His hair turned brown and his eyes green, and the magic contained in the horns vanished.

As everything revolved around him, he heard Sarai's screams and then her grabbing him around the waist to keep him from falling.

"Now ... can I ... live like a human?"

In Sarai's beautiful brown eyes, tears began to lurk menacingly.

“Oh, oh gods. Why the hell did you do that!! " Sarai asked frightenedly, reaching out to the blanket to make a cloth with which to dab the two holes on his head.

Gyntaf smiled, the answer was clear, yet so complicated. His voice still hoarse, he replied.

"For the love of you."

Then, Sarai felt a tight squeeze in her chest and a strange sensation in her stomach, as if she was full of butterflies and writhing to release them.

Suddenly she understood: she had fallen in love with this crazy primeval being she had just met who, in order to stay with her, had broken his own branchy, beautiful horns. He was of a noble and gentle soul, giving life rather than taking it away as Dark Magic did.

And that was enough for Sarai.

Without realizing it they found themselves embraced on the floor covered in golden blood and their lips met eagerly.

 


 

It had been two years since Gyntaf, now Gallus to humans, had arrived in Dracmead. Sarai had made up a rather believable story about how he had escaped from the elves and reached the village.

They had been married for a year now, and living with Sarai had given Gyntaf a new way of seeing humans.

They were warm and capable of good feelings, not ruthless monsters, as he had believed in the past.

In any case, however, they hated elves. Some more, some less. Dark Magic had separated the species so far that Xadia, the land created by the Startouch elves, had been split in two by a terrible and bloody schism. Humans had been exiled to the west and elves remained in the east. Human kingdoms were soon drained of magic by dark mages and this led to a nonmagical deevolution of plants and animals. Due to the schism the elves hated humans, considering them greedy and cruel traitors, and humans hated elves, seeing them as bloodthirsty monsters.

For this reason, as soon as the horns began to grow back, Gallus broke them. The pain was excruciating, every time, but to be with Sarai he would also have moved the whole world.

The two loved each other madly.

From the morning, when the sun woke them, until the evening, when Sarai returned from her service as a general and they fell asleep in each other's arms.

And so, soon, they had a son, Callum. He had brown hair and green eyes, the human aspect of his father, but the features of his mother.

The child was incredibly energetic, as if he had all the strength in the world within him, which, given his father's nature, was true.

But this power was too much for the child to bear, and he became so seriously ill that the doctors were hopeless. Gyntaf and Sarai were desperate, the former in particular as he considered himself directly responsible for Callum's plight, despite his wife's attempts to dissuade him.

But Gyntaf didn't care. He knew what to do and would save his son, his most precious possession. He was sorry to leave Sarai alone, but if their baby died because of him, he would never forgive himself

And so, when Sarai's sister Amaya, unaware of Gallus' true identity, had come to visit her nephew for his fourth birthday and found him bedridden for a full year, Gallus revealed his true nature.

They had decided to share their secret with Amaya on Callum's fifth birthday, but the condition of the child did not allow for further delay.

It was raining heavily and the night was black and dark, not illuminated by either the Moon or Stars.

Amaya, making faces, tried to draw smiles from Callum, but, due to the illness, the smiles were weak and tired, even if they showed the tenacity of the child; Sarai with sadness in her eyes was stroking his head softly. Callum's condition had not improved over time, his dark circles were deep and his pale skin almost gray, his body had visibly slimmed down from inactivity and, every now and then, coughing, a thin stream of blood trickled from the corners of his mouth.

Despite this, Callum smiled. He tried hard to be well, so as not to sadden his parents. He was just a child, he didn't know what death was; he only knew that if he was fine, his mom and dad were fine too.

So even when his chest hurt, when his vision blurred and even when he sweated and snorted to move a single muscle, he smiled.

Gyntaf could no longer bear the sight. He had hoped that Callum would recover to be able to live with him, like the present father he had wanted to be since the child was born, not just a creator who abandoned his creatures to themselves. He would have liked to see Callum grow up, educate him, even punish him when necessary, be there when he fell and be there when he got up, be a father to his son, his only true son.

But it wasn't possible, and Gyntaf knew it.

Approaching Callum's bedside, he put a hand on Amaya's shoulder, who, being deaf and unable to speak, looked at him in confusion.

Then he turned his gaze to Sarai, also bewildered by Gyntaf's attitude.

With a sad smile he brought his forehead close to Sarai's and closed his eyes; she closed hers, took his hand and brought it to her cheek.

Then he spoke.

"I'm sorry. Bring him up for me too. "

At the words of her husband, Sarai opened her eyes suddenly and was amazed. There was no longer Gallus the human in front of her, but Gyntaf the elf as she had never seen him: his prickly horns had suddenly grown bigger and more regal than when she had found him dying along the way, his hair, which he kept short, had now grown back white and shiny, his eyes were no longer green, but golden and luminous and his skin was losing the light tan it had acquired, returning as pure and white as fresh snow.

At the sight of the elf, Amaya drew her sword and started to pounce on Gyntaf, but a look from her sister stopped her.

Gyntaf then said to Amaya:

Sorry we didn't tell you earlier, but I wanted to wait for Callum's fifth birthday. Please forgive me. "

Amaya was amazed, she had heard. She had lived in the deepest silence since she was born, but the voice of this strange, mystical elf had broken it.

I just want to save my son. Please let me pass. "

Still amazed, Amaya shifted, as if her legs did not respond to her but to the divine being in front of her.

Gyntaf walked over to Callum.

The child looked at him with tired eyes.

"Dad," he whispered.

"Listen Callum, now dad will go away ..."

Bright blue tears began to fall from Gyntaf's eyes. It was difficult to separate, but he would save his son, the fruit of his and Sarai's love, the love between a human and an elf. At any cost.

“You have to be strong, grow up and live your life. I already know you will do wonderful things, after all you are… you are my son, my precious baby,” he said sadly.

Then Gyntaf began to sing the elven lullaby that he often sang to Callum when the little one could not sleep for the fever:

 

Codail go síochánta, codladh sámh, mo dhuine beag,

Ní ligfidh mé d'éinne tú a ghortú,

Ní bheidh madraí ná dragain imeaglaithe ort,

Toisc go bhfuil mé anseo le do thaobh,

Codail go síochánta, codladh sámh, mo dhuine beag,

Gan imní agus fadhbanna,

Gan eagla agus pian

Toisc go bhfuil mé i mo lámha agam

Codail go síochánta, codladh sámh, mo dhuine beag,

Toisc go bhfuil an oíche gearr,

Agus tiocfaidh an lá go luath,

An lá a fhásfaidh tú suas,

An lá nach dteastaíonn rainn naíolann uait a thuilleadh,

Mar sin codladh sámh, mar sin codladh sámh, mo dhuine beag. "

 

He finished the lullaby with a sad smile on his face. It would be the last time he sang it.

Placing his hands on Callum's chest, Gyntaf said:

"Look after your mother and aunt for me ..."

A warm, blinding and powerful light exploded from Gyntaf's body: the last spark of life of the perfect being.

With the last ounce of magical energy he had left, he sealed Callum's powers. They would wake up when his body could hold them.

When the light went out, Callum was fine. The dark circles were gone, the skin was rosy again and his physique was restored. As if he had never been sick.

Sarai, moved, ran to hug her son, while Amaya stood next to her and placed a hand on her shoulder still incredulous of what she had witnessed.

Callum was there, alive and well, in his mother's arms, dazed by the sudden loss of his powers.

“You did it, Gyntaf. You saved him,” Sarai said to her husband as tears streamed copiously down her rosy cheeks.

"I ... I'm ... glad ..." he said weakly and in a very hoarse voice.

A shiver ran down Sarai's back: under her eyes, the body of Gyntaf, still standing, sad smile on his lips and resignation on his face, crumbled into white ash that flew, carried by the wind, out the window.

"I wish you a happy life ..." Gyntaf's voice said in the distance, like a whisper in the wind

An excruciating cry tore through Dracmead that night. A wife had lost her husband, and a son his father.

Meanwhile, the wind scattered the ashes of the Son of the World, accompanied by the funeral song of the pouring rain and the roar of thunder.

Chapter Text

Callum found himself in a wasteland, surrounded by nothing but black desert, under a bright purple sky.

What am I doing here? He wondered. He remembered being in the Lunar Nexus, with Rayla, Soren, Ezran and Lujanne. Maybe it's a dream, a remnant of the Moon Lake ritual, he thought.

"Yes, it's a dream, Callum."

He whirled around, drawing the Fulminis rune in the air with a quick gesture.

It was an elf who had spoken, with golden eyes and white, branchy horns, with white hair that fell to the ground and the skin of his face as smooth as that of a porcelain doll. He wore a tunic also white, long to the calves, held tightly at the waist by a leather strap. His body was lean but well built, with broad shoulders and strong limbs, with evident but not too pronounced muscles. In short, he was perfect. Too perfect.

"How do you know my name?" Callum asked distrustfully.

"How can I not know if it was I who gave it to you?" the elf said, as if it were the most normal thing in the world.

"Yes, of course. And Avizandum was a hen. Try another time, maybe I could believe you. "

“I understand, Sarai didn't tell you anything. On the other hand, how could she? If word got out, she would be accused of treason. "

Callum was losing his patience. This strange being claimed to know his mother and also implied that she had kept something secret from him.

“How dare you …”

"Callum, I am your father," said the being.

Callum laughed and, catching his breath, said:

“Of all the lies you could tell, this is by far the most absurd. I remember my father, I got my green eyes and brown hair from him. So now tell me who you are if you don't want to ... "

"Was your father like that?"

No transformation took place. He was there, as if he had always been there, his father, Gallus, with his same green eyes and the same brown hair.

The rune dissolved as Callum looked at his father. Could it be moon magic? Could he have changed his appearance with an illusion?

To distract him from these thoughts, however, it was the same man, who began to sing:

Codail go síochánta, codladh sámh, mo dhuine beag ,

Ní ligfidh mé d'éinne tú a ghortú,

Ní bheidh madraí ná dragain imeaglaithe ort,

Toisc go bhfuil mé anseo le do thaobh,

Codail go síochánta, codladh sámh, mo dhuine beag,

Gan imní agus fadhbanna,

Gan eagla agus pian

Toisc go bhfuil mé i mo lámha agam

Codail go síochánta, codladh sámh, mo dhuine beag,

Toisc go bhfuil an oíche gearr,

Agus tiocfaidh an lá go luath,

An lá a fhásfaidh tú suas,

An lá nach dteastaíonn rainn naíolann uait a thuilleadh,

Mar sin codladh sámh, mar sin codladh sámh, mo dhuine beag. "

 

Callum did not immediately notice the tears sliding silently down his cheeks. He remembered that lullaby, he remembered being very sick as a child and often unable to sleep due to pain. Gallus, his father, sang this dirge to him to help him sleep. He said it was sung in his homeland.

"Dad ..." he said faintly.

“Yes, Callum. I'm here, I'm with you,” Gallus said, pulling his son into a hug.

“How can you be here? Why did you abandon me and my mother? " Callum asked.

“The Arcanum of the Moon is closely linked to the balance between life and death. From the Realm of the Faded I have clung to the trace that the little joke you played at Moon Lake had left on you. Callum, I have not come to give you the answers you are looking for, the time we have is too little, but I can tell you how to find them. Go to Amaya, she knows. And in Dracmead, look for Jonah. Go back to the old house, I have built a secret cellar and there you will find the truth, all of it. " 

He paused, looking at Callum with a sad smile.

“You have grown a lot, my son. You have become a great man. But remember, greatness comes with duties, duties that will often lead you to choose between different ways. Balance heart and mind and consider your choices. "

Callum noticed something. Gallus, his father, was gradually dissolving.

“I regret not being able to raise you. I want to try to be a father, for the last time. Now I'll make you wake up. Run to her, she went east, if you use your wings you will reach her, you will meet again, do not be afraid"

Then, Gallus quickly drew a rune in the air. It glowed bright purple and was incredibly complex.

"Somnio Congredimur "

The rune turned into a purplish light that shot into Callum's chest, knocking him back.

As the young man stood up, Gallus said:

“Now you can visit her in dream, so you can see her. But, this is powerful magic and should be used with caution; do not use it lightly. Not more than once a month. "

Callum felt his chest and then looked at his father, astonished.

"That ... that was ..."

"Star magic."

"No ... I mean, yes, that's pretty incredible too ... but I was referring to the fact that you just used primal magic," the boy said, still stunned.

"You will have all the answers, Callum, now go to her," Gallus said.

He was crumbling now. Gallus, now in the form of Gyntaf, brought a hand to Callum's face and stroked it.

“I love you , mo dhuine beag , my little one. I wish you all the best."

Without even time to return the greeting, Callum woke up.

oOo

Outside the Nexus a storm was raging. Callum was panting and clutching his chest. He looked around, recognizing the room and noting that Rayla's bed was empty. On her nightstand was a parchment, tied to Phoe-Phoe's blue feather. Callum didn't need to open it. he knew what it said.

Wasting no time, he got dressed and went out into the storm.

Manus Pluma Volantus"

Large brown feathers sprouted from his arms, and in the blink of an eye his arms were huge wings.

He took off through the storm clouds, heading east with only her, Rayla, in mind.

Inside he expected that she would do one of her usual insanities. But, on the other hand, that was why he loved her. She was almost as crazy as he was. Almost.

Suddenly he felt something, a sensation in the back of his neck. With a powerful flutter of wings he swung sharply to the right, while where he was before a bolt of lightning struck.

He was stunned for a moment, before rushing even faster through the storm. But it was different now. He felt everything. It was as if he himself were the storm.

Then he saw her. She was moving quickly over the rough terrain, with graceful movements and jumps that seemed like a dance.

Unfortunately he was distracted.

He did not feel the tingling in the back of his neck.

Lightning struck him.

A scream. Then the darkness.

oOo

Rayla stopped, she heard a scream. She whirled around and saw him. Callum plummeting to the ground as his body emitted smoke.

At that moment her mind stopped thinking.

She came back, running faster than she had ever run, jumped and caught him. They fell together on the gravel and rolled a few meters, her body wrapping around Callum's to protect him.

“Callum! Speak out! Please Callum, say something! Anything!"

She put her ear to his chest. Silence. His heart was not beating. Her eyes widened and a lump formed in her throat, preventing her from swallowing.

“No, no, no, no! No! Callum! Please, Callum, open your eyes! "

Not a twitch of the eye, not the slightest movement that could indicate he was still alive, just smoke and burns.

She wasn't far from the Nexus yet. Who cared about Viren? Who cared about Claudia? Now she thought only of Callum, her stupid human who had been through a storm for her.

She picked him up and walked as fast as she could to the Nexus.

With each step she took, she was more and more afraid of not being able to make it in time, of having already lost Callum.

And she cursed herself every second, she was the selfish one who had left without him. It was she who hadn't kept her promise. It was she who, in order to satisfy this… thing… this need, this presumption of being responsible for all those around her, had left for this suicide mission.

It was her fault that Callum was hurt.

As soon as she got to the Nexus, she left Callum in their room and ran into the sanctuary.

"Lujanne!"

"Here I am."

The old elf appeared out of nowhere behind Rayla, wanting to scare her with his usual pranks.

But Rayla was not frightened, on the contrary, she turned abruptly and took her by the wrist.

“Callum… he's hurt… he followed me into the storm and… and he was struck by lightning! His heart doesn't beat and… and I don't know what to do! For Garlath, I'm a fool, a fool a ... "

"Where did you put him, Rayla ?!" Lujanne asked, serious now.

"In our room, on his bed."

Without saying a word, Lujanne ran to the apartment building, while Rayla followed her with her heart in her throat.

As they entered, Lujanne walked over to Callum and put her hand on his chest. Rayla was right. His heart had stopped beating.

“Rayla, there are moon pods and dog roots in the garden. Bring them to me. "

Rayla nodded and walked quickly to the garden behind the shrine. She took the plants and ran back to Lujanne, who in the meantime had taken a pestle, a bowl and a glass goblet.

"While I chop the ingredients, fill this pitcher at the lake."

"What will you give him ?!" Rayla asked in alarm.

"Excitatio Mortis."

Rayla's eyes widened and her face turned red with anger.

"If you wanted to kill him, you might as well leave him there, don't you think ?!" the young elf exclaimed sharply

"It's the only possibility."

"You know that thing is dangerous!"

“Please, Rayla. I want to save him. True, this has a low probability of success, but we cannot do otherwise. If you want him, to live, you have to trust me."

Sighing in anger and resignation, Rayla turned to look at the elf, staring straight into her eyes, with a look of sadness and defeat now, but that still had a spark of hope.

"Do you ... do you think he will make it?" she asked as the tears began to sparkle in her eyes.

This time, the old elf, who always seemed to know everything, did not answer

oOo

Dark. Just dark. As far as the eye could see. In that darkness Callum stood, breathless and eyes closed.

Suddenly he opened them. In front of him was a woman, thin and gray-skinned, with pointed ears and hair as black as the darkest night, long beyond her feet.

“You're finally awake. Well, so to speak. "

Then Callum saw her eyes. Two black spheres darker than pitch, empty.

"Where ... where am I?" he asked hesitantly.

"In the middle. Between life and death. "

"So you are ..."

"Death. Already. Nice to meet you,” she said cheerfully.

Callum eyed her once more then said:

"You are different from how I imagined you."

"Like? Skeletal? Hooded and with a scythe? No, I am of the opinion that living beings must like what they see before following me. For you, for example ... "Death snapped her fingers and in front of Callum there was now a perfect copy of Rayla, the same purple eyes, the same silver hair, the same horns and the same body," This should be fine " Death ended with the voice of the elf.

"So I'm dead?" Callum said defeated.

"Well ... yes. I'm sorry for you, you were so young. But it does not matter. Death is death. In short, it doesn't exclude anyone. "

She held out her hand, the pale four-fingered hand of the elf he loved so much.

In any case, he couldn't do anything anymore. He had been saved by a sheer miracle at the Breach and, although he had kept it from Rayla, he had continued to be sick. He was about to take that hand when he heard something, someone was crying.

He turned in the direction of the sound and saw a kind of puddle floating in front of him. Inside was Rayla, bent over his bruised body, crying desperately. She screamed as Ezran and Soren tried to pull her away, they too with wet eyes and red faces, a sign that they had been crying. Bait looked at him sadly, before croaking, closing his eyes and turning to get out of bed.

"I'm sorry, but I can't follow you."

When he turned to look at Death, he almost jumped. Now in Rayla's place was the woman from before, but her face was twisted into a terrifying grimace of anger and frustration that made the skin crawl.

“Damn elf! This is the second time she has put a spoke in the wheel. This time it won't work. You are dead, Callum. And you will come with me. By hook or by crook,” Death said, as her voice altered to a strange and grotesque frequency.

She reached out to grab Callum, but he slipped and rolled away. He drew the Fulminis rune in the air and activated it.

“ Fulminis! "

Lightning bolted toward Death which seemed to deflect it with ease, waving her hand.

“ You can't escape! Nobody escapes me! Never! " Death screamed as her face grew even more gruesome and blank eyes flashed.

She reached out for his hand again; for Callum it was the end. He would not have escaped.

I'm sorry, Rayla, he thought. He remembered every moment they had spent together, from the Banther Lodge, to the Silvergrove and the Midnight Desert. To the Storm Spire, where he had spread his wings for the first time and saved her. Then he felt something.

He felt a surge of power, a warm, comforting power.

“ No. No, no. NO! it is not possible !! It is inconceivable. How can there be a descendant of that being !! He was Dead, DEAD !! He heard Death scream.

Mǣl. "

The word came out of Callum's throat, as if it had been repeated a thousand times.

Then Death stopped. She didn't move a muscle. Her grimace was firm, frozen.

Power left Callum as it had come.

He was panting.

What was that? He wondered.

Then he looked at the pool again. No there was no time for that. He had to come back.

He approached the portal and entered it, in time to hear the angry and horrible scream of Death.

oOo

Callum opened his eyes and jumped up from the bed.

His mouth was dry and tasted awful, he struggled to move every muscle in his body and his eyes were slow to focus. But he was alive.

"Callum !!"

Rayla crashed into him and sobbing, buried her face in his shoulder, clinging to him with all her strength, as if she didn't want to part from him anymore.

Behind her, he saw Soren and Ezran smiling. Bait had returned to his usual color and was croaking merrily, They were all’happy.

“I'm sorry I scared you, but I'm fine. You see?"

She looked at him with eyes filled with tears. The marks under her eyes were smeared.

“No, Callum. You are not “well". You were dead, Callum. For ten days you remained in that state. "

“We were about to send the letter of your death to Opeli,” Ezran interjected, wiping his eyes.

"You can well imagine that the death of a human in elven territory would have caused a certain break in our fragile peace," Lujanne added.

"This is also true, Lujanne, but as king I would not have allowed it."

“There are many ways to get rid of a king, Ezran. Even more easily if this is a child,” the old elf retorted.

There was a heavy silence, during which everyone thought of the enormous danger involved, until Callum spoke.

“Could we… be alone? Rayla and I. "

With a nod, Lujanne agreed, not before saying to Rayla.

"He's still weak, don't let him get too tired."

Gradually, they all left the room, leaving them alone.

"Rayla ..."

“I know Callum, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have left, but I was too terrified. Terrified that you could be hurt, or even killed. And in the end it happened. It’s my fault."

"Do not…"

“But yes, Callum. It was my fault when you used Dark Magic near the Breach, it was to save me that you nearly died by throwing yourself off the Spire. And it was still my fault that you were struck by lightning and got killed. Because you were dead, Callum. "

As she was speaking she had started sobbing again, remembering how horrible the past ten days had been.

“Others may not point this out to you, but I do. We Moonshadow Elves know these things. We are connected to them. You have returned from the dead, Callum. I don't know how, but you did. Your body was glowing, you were about to burn the blankets. Your hair suddenly turned white and then everything stopped. I was alone in the room and didn't know what was happening to you. So I ran to call the others. And when I got back everything had stopped and you were awake. "

She held him close, unable to say more.

"I'm so sorry, Callum, I'm sorry," she said in a faint voice.

“Rayla, I actually have to thank you. If it weren't for you, maybe I really would have died. You made me come back, Rayla. I heard your voice, just like the Breach. You called me back. I remember I was about to go when I saw you. "

He took her hand and ran his thumb gently over her pale knuckles.

“You saved me, Rayla. A lot of times. And everything I did to save you, I would do it again, again and again. I love you and that's what matters. "

They pressed their foreheads together, and their lips touched softly. A tender and loving kiss, as if it were the first time.

When they separated, she had stopped crying.

"Anyway, that's not what I want to talk to you about," he said. “I've been selfish too, I thought first about what was right for me rather than what was right for you. If you need to go and ... "

“Don't even tell me about it. I'm not leaving you alone. You could die. Again. Since you risk killing yourself looking for me, you'd better come with me so I can keep an eye on you. "

“Do you know I'm not a child? I can take care of myself. "

"I see," she said, rolling her eyes.

She laid him down on the bed.

“But now you have to rest. Well ... you died and came back to life. "

"Stay…"

"By your side? I already told you, I'm not leaving you. Never again."

Saying that, she took his hand, fitting her four fingers perfectly between his five.

And so, they both fell asleep.

oOo

"So at some point I really started to burn and my hair turned white ?!"

“For the fourth time in five minutes, yes, Callum. But now drink the medicine. "

"Are you sure you didn’t immagine it?"

“No, it was just me in the room, Callum, I can't say for sure if I'm crazy. Now drink this medicine. "

"What if ..."

“Callum, Lujanne ordered me to make you drink the medicine, and you will drink the medicine. Even if I have to open your mouth by force. So, unless you want me to force you to open this mouth, drink the medicine. "

Grumbling and reluctantly, Callum took the cup and drank its contents.

After just the first sip he was already complaining about how disgusting it was and how convinced he was that this was nothing more than Phoe-Phoe's piss.

"Callum, Phoe-Phoe is a bird and they don't pee."

"Oh really?"

It had been a week since Callum woke up, and he was fine now. He had told Rayla his dream and she had told him that, yes, the dead often talk to the living through dreams, only the living rarely remember those dreams. In any case it was necessary to verify this "truth" that Callum had to discover.

But Callum, for now, had other priorities. First he tried to use primal magic, which, much to his relief, he succeeded perfectly. Walking had been more difficult; at first his muscles were still sore, but now, after some practice, he did it without any problems.

He had been ready to leave for three days already, but Lujanne had demanded an "observation period". Soren and Ezran, on the other hand, had already left. Ezran had his duties as a king to attend to and Soren was still the captain of the Crown Guard.

During this time, Callum was able to reflect on the dream he had had, on his father and on what he had told him: Go to Amaya, she knows. And in Dracmead, look for Jonah. Go back to the old house, I built a secret cellar there, you will find the truth there, all of it.

He had to contact Amaya and he would do it with shadow hawk arrows. One of the many good things about peace with the elves was being able to send messages much faster and without danger. Sent that way, however, the messages could be intercepted by the wrong person. Therefore, Callum wrote only a few lines:

 

Aunt Amaya,

Let's meet in Dracmead, it's important.

Leave as soon as you can.

Callum.

He tied the message to the arrow. Now he just had to find the bow to hurl it, which was not difficult, since every elf had one.

"Do you want me to do it?" Rayla asked. Callum couldn't draw a bow well normally, let alone now, in the condition he was in.

"No, one day I'll have to learn too, it might as well be today."

He inhaled and took the bow, prepared as much strength as he could, and stretched the string. Unexpectedly, the string tensed smoothly.

"Good, Callum you did it ..."

Rayla looked at Callum speechless. His eyes were golden and sparkling, he had the look of an experienced archer and an impeccable posture, such that not even Runaan could have matched him.

"General Amaya of Katolis," he said, in an imperative and powerful voice, and let go of the thread.

The arrow shot out of the bow with a whistle and, as it transformed into a hawk of blue light, it flew swiftly towards its recipient.

Callum's eyes returned to their normal color, just as his posture returned to that of someone who has never shot a bow.

“The… did I ?! Yup! Yup! I did it! Did you see Rayla?! I did it!!" he said, almost jumping for joy.

"Yeah ... you did ..." Rayla said as she looked him over in an attempt to catch the faintest hint of change in him.

"Rayla? Something wrong?"

"No, it's nothing, I must be tired."

“Rest, you have been next to me the whole time I was dead, obviously you are tired. I'm going to pack my bags. "

He went away, hopping and walking, still thrilled by his new success and humming a tune in which, every now and then, a "I did it" appeared.

"Yeah ... just tired ..." Rayla said, walking to their room, absorbed in her thoughts.

Where Callum had been standing to shoot the arrow, two dark, steaming, charcoal stains stood out in the grass.

oOo

The next morning, Callum and Rayla were ready to leave. They would go to Dracmead to meet Amaya and find out the truth about Callum's father, and then resume the search for Viren. By now they had decided to leave together and would not change their minds. The events of the last few days had convinced them that they could never travel apart again.

They said goodbye to Lujanne and Phoe-Phoe and left, vowing to visit Ellis and Ava on the way back.

They were leaving the Nexus for another adventure. An adventure they still didn't know where it would take them. 

Chapter Text

Dracmead was picturesque. Very picturesque. The town developed around a square that had a fountain in its center, around which the children played ball while the adults discussed and exchanged goods. The houses were made of wood and had sloping roofs, adorned with the most diverse decorations; the most used, unexpectedly, reproduced the terrible dragons.

"It's exactly as I remembered it!" Callum exclaimed, glad to be back in his hometown after so long.

"Yeah, be careful not to rejoice too much ..." Rayla said, in a bad mood since they had arrived in sight of the city. Many human cities still did not accept the presence of the elves, although the war was over, so despite the sweltering heat, she felt she had to hide her horns and ears under a heavy cloak and her four fingers by wearing gloves and holding her hands in her pockets so as not to show the empty and dangling little finger.

"I thought you enjoyed pretending to be human ..." Callum whispered.

"Yes, but not when they could kill you if you don't do it well enough!" she answered in a low voice.

"I beg your pardon, are you by any chance Prince Callum?"

The two, taken by surprise, turned abruptly and saw a man in his thirties, with a dark complexion and brown eyes, short curly hair that fell in a tuft on his face and a scar on his upper lip. He was tall and muscular, his hands were large and hard from work, probably a blacksmith.

Recomposed, Callum straightened up and put out his best princely voice.

"Who wants to know?"

“I'm Jonah, I was your father's apprentice blacksmith. We will be safer in my home. Come. "

Callum, surprised and hesitant, turned to Rayla who, more decisively, took his forearm.

"How do we know we can trust you?" she asked skeptically.

“Because I know about Gallus and the cellar. And because I already know about you, Rayla of the Moonshadow Elves. I have been in contact with Amaya for ten years and she sends me regular updates. But we don't have time, Aaravos' followers could be everywhere. "

"How do you know about Aaravos?" Callum asked.

“Because I know who your father was, Callum, who he really was. Now are you following me or not? "

Without hesitation, the two followed Jonah to his home.

oOo

Jonah's house was small, but cozy. The entrance led directly to a large room and from this to the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms. When Jonah opened the door, his wife and daughter met him. 

“My dear, welcome back. These I assume are Prince Callum and Princess Rayla,” the woman said with a slight bow.

"No, I ..." Rayla began to stammer, embarrassed to be called a princess.

“A real princess !! Like those of the stories, which are in the towers with the dragon and the prince arrives and saves them ?! "

"Dragons don't do these things!" Rayla said, answering the girl.

"But the stories say so."

"That is fine. While you speak, I teach to ...? "

“My name is Brhia”, the little girl intervened.

"... I teach Brhia what dragons really are", and they both walked away, heading towards the girl's room:

“Letha, please go with them,” Jonah told his wife.

Nodding, Letha hastened to catch up with Rayla and Brhia, who were already chatting to each other like two old friends.

Silence fell, Jonah spoke:

“Let's start over again. My name is Jonah, I was an assistant in your father's forge until his death. I know about the secret cellar under your old house, where his gift for you was hidden. I have been in contact with Amaya since you and Sarai went to live in the royal palace and, respecting your father's wishes, I have been waiting for your return. "

“Well, it's nice to meet you. It seems you are the only one who knows anything about my father. "

“Oh, you're wrong. Many know about your father, but not in the way you imagine him. "

"What do you mean?"

Jonah sighed, then made his way to a large wooden trunk, motioning for Callum to follow him.

Jonah removed everything from the trunk and Callum could see that the bottom appeared to be higher than where it should have been. Then Jonah reached out for tiny levers, so well hidden you would never have seen them if you hadn't known they were there, and the bottom rose, revealing a secret, cloth-lined compartment.

In the center of the compartment, when Jonah pulled back the cloth, lay an Earth Primordial Stone.

"I guess you know what this is."

“Sure, it's a Primordial Stone. It allows those without Primordial Magic to practice it. But how did you get one? They are incredibly rare. "

"Not as much as a human connecting to the Sky Arcanum," Jonah replied, looking Callum in the eye. "This was given to me by your father, created by himself."

After a brief but solemn silence, Callum spoke.

“My father, so… he really was an elf,” he said in surprise.

"You guessed it."

"But what kind? The Stone is of the Earth, but then why can I do Sky magic? It's all so damn confusing!"

Callum slammed his fist on the table in frustration.

“First the dream with my father, then I die and come back to life! Now I discover that my father was really an elf, but not the kind I expected! " he snapped.

“Callum, I cannot give you all the answers you are looking for. But that cellar yes. Amaya will arrive in the morning and we will see what we can do. Now you and Rayla have to rest, you have travelled a long time. Unfortunately I don't have any other bedrooms, but I can spread some blankets here if ... "

“Don't worry, we'll go to the inn. From what I remember they make an excellent chicken soup. "

When they went to call Rayla from Brhia's room, they found the little girl repeating that she absolutely wanted to become a dragon, while Rayla and Letha laughed in amusement.

It was necessary to explain to Brhia that becoming a dragon was not very easy and, before saying goodbye and leaving the house, Callum and Rayla had to solemnly promise her that they would help her ride one.

When he saw them go away, it seemed to Jonah that Gallus was walking away from his house with Sarai, after having dinner with them.

"There's no question, it was her father," he said with a smile, remembering Gallus when he was still alive.

"Who knows, we might see something interesting."

oOo

"So, did you find something?" Rayla asked as she lay beside Callum.

“Nothing we didn't already assume. My father was an elf of some kind, that's for sure. "

“Who knows, he lived with humans for a long time, maybe he was a Moonshadow elf,” she said as she stretched on the mattress. They had travelled a week to get to Dracmead and being able to lie down on a comfortable straw mattress was already a luxury for them, even though Callum was a prince.

“Maybe, but the stone was of the Earth. And I know how to do the Sky magic. I can't find any connection. "

“Maybe his parents were of two different types of elves. Often elves are born with a double source, perhaps your father was one of them. And he will have learned the third over time. "

Callum yawned and rubbed his eyes.

"You know what? Let's wait to see the cellar. I'm terribly tired and I don't want to think about it. "

"I agree; as you like. Good night, my prince.” And Rayla lifted herself up on one elbow to give him a tender kiss on his lips.

"You too, my beautiful assassin with whom I saved the world from total war."

The two intertwined their hands, her four fingers fitting perfectly with his five, and they fell asleep, unaware of the dark forces plotting across the border.

oOo

“Your pet caterpillar has been locked in there for months. And we've been stuck in this cave ever since, dad."

"You have to be patient, Claudia, Aaravos knows what he's doing."

“He's an elf, dad. He is a bloodthirsty deceptive monster. "

“Maybe, but he was a tremendous help in the war. Without him you would not have your scepter. "

“You died to do as he said, Dad. You fell off the Storm Spire, plummeting from hundreds and hundreds of meters high. Do you have any idea of the state in which I found you? "

"You still managed to bring me back to life," Viren retorted.

"Yes ... yes I did," Claudia replied as she frowned. She had brought her father back to life from the remaining mess of broken bones and pulped organs, but the price had been several dozen elves. True, they were still beasts, but as she killed them they even seemed to have human feelings. In any case, there was nothing to be softened: they had horns. And you had to eat. She turned to look at a corner of the cave where white elf bones lay piled up. Now only their remains were left.

“Shhh, wait,” Viren said.

There was a strange sound, like something cracking.

The two looked into each other's eyes and in a flash they were in front of the chrysalis that the great caterpillar had made.

It was opening up.

Every second that the crack descended along the chrysalis, Claudia was tenser. She tightened her grip on her Sunforge staff, now corrupted and black as pitch.

Eventually, the shell tore apart, revealing a hideous creature covered in mucus. The body was at least two meters tall and was humanoid, except that it was covered in a thick black carapace, bristling with spikes along the legs, arms, and spine. From the shoulders, moist and folded to resemble a cloak, two gigantic and robust beetle wings were born. Its hands and feet had three black claws, so hard they could break even rock. From under the arms, at the level of the side, two further, smaller limbs protruded, ending in two claws like those of a mantis. A long tail started from the backside, also covered with chitin, fitted at the end with a sting, most likely poisonous. The face, or what it must have been, had remained that of the frightening caterpillar that months before had closed itself in its chrysalis.

The creature rose on its legs and turned to the onlookers, who wore a grimace of disgust on their faces.

Then the head of the caterpillar seemed to shrink, the various horns withdrew, until it turned into a human face of disturbing beauty, in stark contrast to the rest of the body, with a bluish-purple skin, silver hair and two proud horns on the top of the head. The features of the face were sharp and the cheekbones high. Below the eyes, pitch-black but with two gold-colored circles in the center, there were four small luminescent rhombuses.

The creature took a deep breath and said in a macabre, distorted voice:

How I missed breathing Xadia's air once more."

Viren hesitantly took a step forward.

"A... Aaravos?"

Almost, I haven't recovered my true form yet, but for what we have to do it will be fine."

Aaravos moved towards the cave entrance, looking out.

We have to be able to free myself from my prison ."

"Why should we trust you, you are an elf, an enemy!" Claudia said.

Aaravos turned, fixing his gaze on her.

In the blink of an eye, the monster had grabbed Claudia by the throat with its claws and, lifting her off the ground, kept her nailed to the cave wall. Viren moved to do something, but the sting darted towards him, stopping a few inches from his forehead, releasing a kind of foul-smelling mucus.

True, you shouldn't. But our interests coincide. You want Xadia and I want to be free. I need you as you need me. I will only help you to conquer Xadia when I have my body back. Only then. "

Claudia felt the grip tighten on her throat and her vision blurred, she could no longer scrutinize in Aaravos' empty eyes. She felt trapped. A lamb in the jaws of the wolf, or, in this case, the hornet. Suddenly she was released and fell to the ground with a thud as his tail swept away from Viren like a snake.

"Here ... what's our next move then?" Claudia asked, coughing and holding her throat.

Aaravos smiled, showing sharp, sharp teeth; the teeth of a beast.

We have to kill some dragons."

oOo

Amaya arrived early in the morning, followed by Gren. Janai missed the roll, but it wasn't a surprise. She was still the queen of the Sunfire Elves and her relationship with Callum's aunt was still a secret. A human general and an elven queen together still sounded strange, but they certainly were good ballad material.

Amaya stopped her stallion, got off it and left the reins to Gren, telling him to take him to the stables. Callum knew sign language quite well and did not need a translator.

Hi, Aunt Amaya," Callum signed.

Amaya lifted him off the ground with a bear hug, making all his bones creak. Yes, there was no need for a translator for that.

Don't worry about sign language, Cal. Now I can hear. "

She paused for a moment to enjoy Callum's astonished expression, then continued with a smile.

The magic of the elves can work wonders. "

When she saw Rayla approach, her face took on a bored expression.

I see you're still around, " she signed with Gren beside her, even though he wasn't translating. He didn't always translate everything for his general and Amaya knew that. Gren was incredibly kind and optimistic, so he refrained from translating anything that might sound offensive to the interlocutor.

But Rayla had tried to learn sign language, and even though she only knew the simplest signs, that was enough for her to understand what Amaya was saying.

She only signed one thing: " Yes "

This raised Amaya's eyebrow as Rayla smiled mockingly. The general did not expect it.

At the sight of the smirk, Amaya frowned and began to sign:

“ I'm really surprised, Rayla, I didn't expect you would try to learn human sign language, having just four fingers. I am really amazed by your willingness to learn and the constancy you have, but know that it will be hard and difficult. I recommend that you prepare for this winding path as best you can. But I guess it's useless to tell you, you are a former Moonshadow assassin, planning and preparation is what you excell at. I congratulate you again for your commitment and I wish you all the best "

At that quick succession of gestures, Rayla showed all her confusion, and this time it was Amaya's turn to giggle. Then the elf turned red and turned her head away.

Gren, also amused by the little show put on by the two, translated for Rayla.

“He said you were good,” he said with an amused smile.

Rayla's face lit up and took on a cheerful expression. For the first time she had received a compliment from Amaya. Normally this would have been irrelevant, but that was the only real family Callum had left. Her approval was important.

“So, Aunt Amaya, I have called you here for an important reason,” Callum said, though, as he spoke, he signed the same in sign language. He was having a hard time getting used to the fact that his aunt could hear now. “I have to know what you know about my father, my real father. Gallus. "

Amaya frowned. She still remembered the day she had first seen Gallus. The real Gallus. She hadn't asked Sarai anything more after the affair, it always hurt too much to talk about him.

I don't know much, Callum. I only know what I saw that night. The night you were healed "

Then looking around, cautiously, she signed:

We’d better go to the old house, somebody here could hear us. Let's go. There we will speak freely. Jonah, you come too. We don't know how to open that cellar. "

oOo

The house was as he remembered it, both from the outside and inside: a brick building with wood-lined walls, to keep the warmth inside in the winter. 

That night it was raining, and you were very sick. We thought you weren't going to reach five” Amaya signed while Gren translated.

Then suddenly… he went white, with long hair and big deer antlers. His eyes were golden and ... he spoke to me " 

Callum and Rayla looked at her sideways.

“Aunt Amaya, humans and elves were still at war. Do not…"

Didn't your stepfather, King Harrow, ever teach you to wait for the other to finish before speaking?"

Callum, looked down and said:

"Yes you are right. Excuse me."

“ Anyway, I was as surprised as you are. For the first time I had heard something, even if it was only in my head. Then he approached you and I could not see anything, a strong light forced me to close my eyes. When I opened them, you were fine, as if nothing had ever happened to you and you grew up normally. " 

Amaya paused, putting her hand to her mouth to suppress a surge. Even after ten years, the image she had in mind still made her shiver.

“ I turned to Gallus and… he was crumbling in the wind. I have never forgotten what happened that day. So I kept in touch with Jonah; one day it would be time for you to know. To open the cellar. "

Amaya stopped signing and Gren translating as Callum stared into space, shocked by the revelation.

Without saying a word, Rayla placed her hand tenderly on his shoulder.

He looked at her and smiled, but his eyes were filled with sadness, thinking back to his father's fate. He brought his right hand to his shoulder and took the elf's hand, rubbing his thumb on her knuckles.

“There's no point in waiting any longer,” he said, with a resolute expression on his face.

oOo

The dragon roared and wriggled in the sky as the dark tendrils clung to his limbs and neck pulling him to the ground.

Enutrofsim s'nogard, eht rednu eid "

The words came out corrupt and distorted like a gasp from Claudia's throat, while the tendrils that sprang from her fingers knocked down the dragon. Quick as lightning, then, Aaravos pierced his parts of the dragon with his terrible claws, which after another faint roar ceased to move.

With more freedom of movement, Aaravos tore open the dragon's armored belly with no small effort and stepped inside. When he came out, he was carrying his heart, steaming and still faintly beating.

"Tell me again, why are we doing this?" Claudia asked.

“ Dark Magic draws strength from Primal Magic. So to make it more powerful, we need to store enough Primal Magic in our bodies to tap into and… "

“… And use it like a bow”, Claudia concluded for him.

Aaravos looked at her in confusion. Even with his millennial intelligence he had not understood the connection between his explanation and the analogy.

Faced with the puzzled gaze of the pseudo-insect and Viren, Claudia felt she had to explain:

"Well, an arrow is dangerous even without being shot, but you still need a bow to make it lethal, right?"

“ Yes, correct. So start eating, ”said the being, after understanding the similitude.

"Ugh ... without even boiling it?" Claudia said in disgust.

“ The magic would disappear, the heart has to be eaten when it is still 'fresh' so to speak. "

"You're not kidding us, are you?" Claudia said with a forced laugh.

“ I am a Startouch elf. I can't lie, ”Aaravos replied impassively.

“Maybe you're lying right now,” she said, winking.

Aaravos snorted in annoyance. Despite everything she had done and seen, the girl was still too optimistic and cheerful. Her spirit was not broken. At least as long as Viren was around. The mere fact that the man was still alive made her happy. So she would have been useless. And that other one, that boy, Clem or Caelum. She liked him, even though he had been partly responsable for Viren’s death letting him drop from the Spire. She was convinced that Callum was controlled by that Moonshadow elf. 

Deluding.

A macabre smile spread across Aaravos's face. He could have killed two birds with one stone.

"Hey, what have you got?" Claudia asked, as she swallowed a mouthful of dragon's heart with some disgust, seeing Aaravos' smile widen.

Nothing ... "

The elf turned to Viren, who hadn't noticed anything.

It's nothing ... "

 

Chapter Text

The house was just as Callum remembered it. A room with a table, a bed and a door leading to the latrines. Although, due to the fever, he did not remember very well what was happening around him, he felt a strong attachment to that place. This was where his father had given his life for his.

Callum snorted in amusement. Only a few days earlier he had had a "chat" with Death, in the true sense of the term.

“Callum, Jonah has arrived. We have to go."

He was pulled out of the flow of his thoughts by Rayla who gently squeezed his hand at Gren's warning. Callum smiled at her and together they headed for the door. Outside, they felt the crisp morning air on their skin.

Dawn lit up the small village, at that deserted hour, were it not for the occasional cat and the morning nightingales. A light and pleasant breeze caressed their faces, carrying the smell of the forest with it.

"Do you know what it reminds me of?" Rayla said.

"What?"

“The dawn before the battle at the Spire. It was identical to this one. "

Their hands intertwined and she rested her head on his shoulder.

“It makes me think how meaningless centuries of fighting were. Elves and humans breathe, eat, and feel the same way. And we all share the same sky. "

"The Archway of the Worlds," Callum said to himself.

"And where did this come from?" Rayla said smiling.

"I don't know, it occurred to me."

"Oh, so now you are also becoming a poet, as well as an artist?"

Laughing, the two headed to the back of the house where Jonah was waiting for them; you could see that he had dressed in a hurry and his eyes were still very sleepy. Beside him were Amaya and Gren who, accustomed to military rhythms, had already woken up for an hour and were well rested.

"It's below."

Everyone looked down at the ground. There was nothing, just grass, maybe a few strands higher than another.

"Jonah, I don't want to be fussy, but there's only grass here," Callum interjected.

"It is not under our feet, but underground."

Jonah leaned toward the ground, holding the Primordial stone of the Earth in his hand. He put his hand on the grass and cast a spell.

"Revelio."

Anything.

Then they felt something under their feet.

The earth shook for a moment, before the entire clod on which they were standing lifted. In a hurry they climbed down from the boulder, which was now reaching a dangerous height.

The rock, rising, had revealed a staircase that spiraled down into the bowels of the earth from which a strong musty and closed smell came.

"Well, at least we're sure there's no water down there," Rayla said with a chuckle.

But Callum paid no attention to her, looking, as if enraptured, into the darkness of the cave. He felt an attraction towards that place, a powerful force that tempted him to get off that he barely resisted.

With a sleeve of his jacket he wiped the cold sweat from his forehead.

"Callum, are you okay?" Rayla asked worriedly, having noticed his paler skin and the tiny droplets on his forehead.

"Huh? Oh yes. I'm fine."

She didn't like his tone, it was as if he said "no, I'm not at all well, but I don't want to make you feel bad".

"Callum, you don't have to do it if you don't want to."

Callum turned and took her hand. He took two deep breaths and his expression calmed down and his skin regained some color. The Sky Arcanum gave several advantages, one of these meant that, by inhaling clean air, it was possible to increase the oxygenation of the brain and, thus sharpening senses, to think better.

“Thanks, Rayla. But I'm fine, it was just a feeling. "

Though she was unconvinced, she averted her gaze, which she had directed back towards the staircase. Even if briefly, she too had felt the pull towards the bottom of the staircase.

We just have to get off, " Amaya signed with Gren translating.

The group, with Callum in the lead, cautiously approached the staircase. That was magic, and humans knew too little about it to be sure about anything.

Callum was about to step onto the first step when, inexplicably, he tripped over it. To keep himself standing, without thinking he put his hand on the rock. An annoying burn began to spread from the palm throughout his body, and Callum did not even have time to think that, suddenly, the rock that had risen earlier closed on him, dragging him into the darkness.

oOo

Viren narrowed his eyes as sunlight entered the cave. He was lying on the bare rock resting to regain his strength. It took time for the body to get used to breathing and being alive again.

He didn't even want to imagine what state his body was in when Claudia brought him back to life. His daughter was undoubtedly talented in Dark Magic, but he was starting to have second thoughts, remembering the vision he had had when she died.

Viren snapped his eyes open and sat up, gasping. He remembered everything, the Dragon Prince, Aaravos, the Shadowmoon elf, she pushing him off the spire causing them both to fall and then Callum, the king's bastard, speaking in draconic. What were the words? Manis, Pluma and… no, he didn't remember. And then the crash, without pain, only the world that suddenly turned black, as if someone had blown out the sun like you do with candles.

With difficulty he got up from his sitting position and took time to look around. Even if there was really nothing to look at. He was in absolute nothingness.

But then he saw her. His wife, as beautiful as the day she'd left him to return to Del Bar, with long brown hair wrapped in a braid and deep blue eyes that looked like lapis lazuli.

"Heid ..."

She turned, looked at him and smiled.

He didn't resist. He ran to meet her and hugged her, holding her tightly to him.

"Oh, Heid, how I missed you ...".

"I'm sorry, I'm not Heid."

Viren loosened the embrace and looked her straight in the face, incredulous: the one in front of him was in every way identical to Heid. The woman caught the confusion of the man, sighed and resumed the conversation.

"Usually I take the form of someone that the soul has loved, to allow a more pleasant passage to the afterlife."

Viren raised her eyebrows slightly as understanding touched her mind.

"You are ... Death," he said, in a beaten and sad voice.

"Exactly!" She said, in a strangely cheerful tone.

"So I'm dead ..."

"This too is correct."

Panic crept into his mind; he was about to open his mouth, but Death prevented him.

"No, your wife and children are fine."

Viren took a sigh of relief trying not to show it, then returned to his hard and composed facade. Death seemed to notice it, but said nothing, continuing to smile good-naturedly.

“You didn't have to worry about both of them. One of them died for me when he betrayed me. "

"And are you really that furious and amazed that I betrayed you?" Death asked, tilting his head to one side.

“Of course they are. He was my son, it was his duty ... "

"And have you ever really been a father to him?" she pressed him.

He was about to answer when a part of his heart, long dormant, spoke.

"No"

No, he never had been. Ever since Claudia learned to use Dark Magic, she had become his favorite. He had left Soren on the sidelines and neglected for a long time. He hadn't kept his promise to Heid. "Take care of them," she said. And he hadn't, he had neglected his son.

"I haven't been a good father," he admitted to himself.

When those words left his mouth he felt lighter, as if a boulder had been removed from his chest.

"And Claudia?" Death said.

Viren looked at the likeness of his ex-wife in the eye. He hadn't even kept the second promise, "Keep them away from Dark Magic."

It was as if that promise had been made to the wind. He had failed to teach it to Soren and had passed on to Claudia, oblivious to the fact that it was dangerous and corrupted the soul. He had done it out of spite of her, out of spite of Heid. And, in doing so, he had put his daughter on a bad path, which would eventually kill her. Even he wasn't sure how long he had left to live, maybe it was five years or less. And Claudia was much more tied to Dark Magic than he was. She considered it a game, he considered it a solution.

He was killing his daughter.

Awareness ripped through him, freeing him from another boulder.

"What ... what are you doing to me?"

“I'm having you do an examination of conscience; I'm freeing you from regrets. You will then be the one to choose the right path. Whether to go Up or Down. "

Death circled around him and whispered in his ear.

"But we're not done."

No, he wasn't done. The silly excuse of the "bright future for humanity". Maybe at first he had had such an ideal, but then it had become an excuse, a justification for his reckless actions. He had used the shadows of the elven assassins who were tasked with killing Harrow in order to set the Human Kingdoms against the Xadia. Thus he had murdered two of the five members of the Pentarchy, while one of them was seriously wounded and the young Queen Aanya of Duren was able to repel the attack.

Not to mention the fact that he transformed four entire human armies into legions of terrifying and depensitive creatures who lived to kill.

All this only for his thirst for conquest.

Now he felt light, his every regret, every mistake he had admitted was gone and this had made him lighter, but it had also made him feel infinitely guilty. He was ashamed of himself.

Death smiled, and said:

"I see we're done."

With a snap of fingers, a spiral stone staircase appeared, extending both up and down.

"I trust you will make the right decision."

He knew. He approached the staircase, ready to descend the step.

"Wait up…"

He turned to Death, who had now changed her appearance into those of a tall woman with an olive skin, very black hair down to her feet and beyond, pointed ears and very deep black eyes.

"Apparently, your debt has been paid."

As she said those words, dozens and dozens of blue bodies slowly appeared behind her, both elves and humans. Everyone turned to him, looking at him with hatred and contempt. Their gaze was like a shower of daggers crashing down on him. He felt responsible and didn't know why. All of them, with their heads bowed, walked in a row towards the staircase that went down, in silence.

“Thank your daughter for that. She took those poor fellows down just for you. Too bad, almost all of them had been virtuous and good in life. "

"What do you mean?"

This time, death chuckled: a much more macabre laugh than before.

"You'll find out when you're out."

A snap of her fingers and Viren saw the light again, not before hearing Death's last words.

"Make the right choices this time."

"Make the right choices," Viren said to himself. He looked around, to make sure that no one was there, and walked out of the cave.

oOo

Callum had tried for hours, in vain, to move the rock. Well, it had seemed like hours to him, actually it had only taken five minutes to tire him out. He slumped against the rough wall of the underground stairway, panting and drenched in sweat, and decided what to do. Going away was out of the question at the moment. All he had to do was go down.

"Rayla!" he screamed.

He heard the elf's muffled voice.

“Callum?! Everything OK?!"

"Yes I'm fine!"

"Don't worry, we'll find a way to get you out!"

He felt that strong attraction sensation again, now accompanied by an annoying ringing in his ears.

All right," he thought, leaning on his knees and getting up.

"I'm starting to go down, Rayla!"

The answer was delayed for a few seconds.

"Are you crazy?!"

“Relax, Rayla! Nothing will happen to me! My father wouldn't have sent me here to kill myself! "

He had to wait a moment before the elf's voice reached him.

"Don't you dare die down there!"

"No I won’t!"

When he no longer heard anything, he began to descend.

The stairway was quite steep, being roughly carved in stone, but nothing unmanageable. The stairway of the Spire was much steeper than this one and on one side open into the void overhanging it down to the ground.

It was strange, the more Callum continued to descend the more he could see in the dark and the temperature, instead of dropping, rose in a warm and welcoming warmth. But the staircase didn't seem to end anytime soon and it wasn't linear at all. It changed direction continuously: it turned left and right apparently without logic, sometimes it even seemed to reverse direction.

Soon, Callum lost all orientation: he continued to seemingly descend into nothingness. It was all wrong. It often felt like he was walking on a ceiling rather than a floor, as he descended further and further down, up the endless staircase that stretched before him to the next turn.

He did not know how many hours he had continued to descend. He wanted to go up, go back and get out but strangely he felt that something was preventing him from doing so. And there was always the attraction and the buzz, static, like something that always sounded the same, regardless of distance.

And then he fell.

He felt the wind whip his face, as it did when he swooped down with his wings. He opened his eyes and was in the void. He was falling at very high speed towards nowhere.

"Manus. Pluma. Volantus” he said.

Nothing, his symbols on his arms did not shine, his wings did not open.

He began to panic. He tried again and again. Nothing.

Am I really going to die like this? " he thought. " I'm sorry, Rayla I don't think I'll be able to keep my promise."

He closed his eyes, waiting for something. Even a crash would have been better than the endless fall.

But there was neither one nor the other.

The air stopped and he felt much lighter.

Callum opened his eyes and found that he was suspended in midair, a few feet from the solid floor of dark rock.

"Ah"

A moment later he was standing on the rocky floor, surrounded by nothing but darkness. Looking up, he encountered only a deep and alienating nothingness. He shivered. Being so far from the sky made him uncomfortable. He could sense the Sky Arcanum almost vanishing away from his body due  to the distance from his primordial Source.

"Well ... let's go," he said, well aware that he was speaking to himself. He could still feel the powerful pull that had driven him down there.

Once again, time seemed to deform and space took on inconceivable forms.

Around him, Callum could hear hissing and other disturbing sounds. He didn't know if it was his imagination, but he had no way of controlling it.

Following this imaginary thread created by the trace of sounds, he reached a curious whitish spherical formation, which seemed to be made of a strange and fragile chitin.

Without thinking, he reached out and touched it ...

 

oOo

Aaravos heard a knock on his study door. He snorted in annoyance and with a wave of his hand the bolt snapped open.

“I pay you my respects, Master Aaravos,” said the boy in the doorway. He had black hair, pale skin, hazel eyes and was rather thin compared to his peers.

It was the third time in that month that Ziard had appeared at his door and it was now because he couldn't find any reagents, now because he had detonated something. But what could Aaravos do about it? Sol Regem, the king of dragons, had ordered him to watch over Elarion and the development of human civilization so that it did not go against the laws of Xadia. He certainly couldn't refuse an order from Sol Regem. Although his way of ruling was upright and just, the dragon was notorious for easily losing his temper. Furthermore, although Aaravos was several centuries older than Sol Regem, reincarnation raised considerable problems in the hierarchy. When he was the advisor to Prior Sidus, the first king of the dragons, Sol Regem had not even reached the age of two hundred and yet he was now an elder and powerful dragon, while Aaravos had lost much of his prestige.

Not to mention that Sol Regem continually distrusted him and the other Startouch elves. He regarded them as manipulators and only kept a Sunfire elf dog beside him who could barely channel his Arcanum to create a small sun; something that any Star elf would have been able to do after only fifty years, with enough effort. For this Aaravos had been sent as far as possible from Lux Aurea, into that sewer-city called Elarion.

“Ziard, what is it now? Do you keep failing in your alchemy? " Aaravos asked.

"Um, no ... I thought I found something that might interest you"

"Not likely" thought the elf. He had seen most of what this world had to offer and had doubts that a young man, even more human, had found anything of interest to him.

"Okay, go ahead," the elf said in a bored voice. He preferred to hurry up and finish signing the paperwork he had to send to the Council.

"You know we humans aren't connected to any Arcanum, right?"

"Correct."

"And therefore we cannot practice primal magic."

"This is also correct."

"But ... what if there were a way to" borrow "primal magic?"

Aaravos's eyebrows rose in amazement, while maintaining his calm expression.

"How did you get this" enlightenment "if I am allowed?" Aaravos asked curiously.

"I was watching archers training with bows and it made me think that if primordial magic is to elves like a sword that is wielded directly by a person, it could not be like an arrow for humans to cast with some kind of bow?"

Aaravos was flabbergasted. It could work. The theory was right.

He met Ziard's gaze, seeing the determination in the young man's eyes.

"We already have the arrow, we just have to find the bow," the young man said, spreading his arms with the palms up.

"You realize this is madness, right?" Aaravos said, turning more to himself than to the human, as a sly smile formed on his face and his hands began to itch with excitement.

"We won't know until we try," Ziard retorted.

Aaravos shook the human's hand without hesitation. But he hadn't seen it all yet.

"I have an idea of what the bow could be," said the boy with his voice full of trepidation ...

 

oOo

Gyntaf had his hands clasped behind his back as he observed the vastness of the world from Seachtù's Heaven. He was arriving. Sighing, he turned, hearing Aaravos's footsteps approaching.

"And so, humans have corrupted you to such an extent."

At that moment, Aaravos entered.

"What do you mean, creator?" he asked innocently.

“You stink of something… of Death and putrefaction. What did you do?"

Aaravos began to laugh softly, before his laughter took off. Gyntaf could well see that little was left of the elf's mental health.

"Nothing can be hidden from you, 'creator'." And this last word was spat out as if it were poison. "Let's just say that I made a little deal"

For the first time in his long life, Gyntaf raised his eyebrows slightly in surprise.

“Oh, Aaravos. Where did I go wrong?"

The Startouch elf did not answer, but began to recite a long spell in a language as ancient as it was powerful and the Miasma of Gahmracht massed around him.

Without delay, with the Sky Arcanum, Gyntaf created a shield of air around his body. That wouldn't protect him, but at least it would soften the blow.

But nothing happened.

Then a flash, and from Gyntaf's chest protruded motionless a gnarled blade as black as the abyss, at the tip of which was driven the first heart of the perfect being.

"You should have paid attention." Aaravos was behind him as he emerged from the shadow of the Son of the World.

Gyntaf's energy began to fade. Just as it had entered his body, the tentacle, moving as if it were alive, penetrated a second time inside Gyntaf's chest and came out taking the second heart with it.

Adrǣfan "

A circle of light expanded from Gyntaf, knocking Aaravos back like a puppet.

Sƿeord "

Two swords of light more than an arm long appeared in Gyntaf's hands, and he stepped into a fighting stance.

With a grunt of frustration, Aaravos brought Gyntaf's two hearts to his mouth and devoured them, thus learning the Arcanums of Water and Sky, then flew in the direction of his opponent making a horizontal slash, a very strong blade of wind and lightning.

But Gyntaf, raising his arm, created a wall of rock in front of him, blocking Aaravos's sharp gust and momentum.

This time he felt the movement and, turning abruptly, grabbed the black blade with one hand, in midair, a few inches from his chest.

“Twice the same trick. It doesn't work,” he said impassively.

But as he said these words, he felt an itch at his wrist and saw his veins turn black and fill with the horrid liquid from which the sword was formed.

He jerked his hand away, in which the sword made of light instantly reappeared, but now the poison was in his body. He felt a sharp pain in his chest and something digging inside him. A black worm slid out of his torso, with another Gyntaf heart on its sharp end.

Aaravos devoured that too. "You are weak to be a god."

Gyntaf had lost Sun too. He had only four hearts left now, not enough to stand up to Aaravos and the Void, the Eighth Primary Source.

He was left with only one chance of salvation.

With the magic of the Moon he escaped the sight of his opponent and, approaching the edge of Heaven, jumped, while Aaravos's scream of anger echoed behind him.

He broke through the earth's crust with the magic of the earth and returned home to the center of the World. He entrusted his Destiny to the Stars: he would be sent back when the Fates blew in favour of the world.

There, where everything had formed, he created an egg, harnessing the Sky magic which, over the course of aeons, had strengthened and condensed there; a Sky egg, crackling with the power of true Primordial Magic. The last of the Archdragons, the secret weapon against Aaravos, King Avizandum ...

 

oOo

 

In the Spire, Avizandum, the first Dragon Guard made up of the most powerful warriors ever, and the other four Archdragons, awaited the arrival of Aaravos, the King of Thieves.

Outside the Spire, the battle raged.

"Are you sure this will work, Phirytran?" Avizandum said to the Archmage of the Startouch elves.

"Hopefully ..."

"So there is not even certainty that it works?" Sol Regem retorted.

"With Prior Sidus gone, we can't count on all the archdragons."

“Queen Luna Tenebris, you will forgive me if I correct you, but each elf continuously emits the energy of their Arcanum; Aaravos already emits stellar energy on his own, so the presence of Prior Sidus may not be essential, although his absence could make it more difficult to trap ... "

An explosion from the mouth of the cave caused the Archdragons to turn. Aaravos had arrived. He walked in with a calm, measured step, but waves of power came from him with each foot putting forward the other.

“Ah, what a nice family reunion,” he said, still pacing the room. "And I expected better from you Phirytran."

"What you did is wrong, father."

"Oh really?"

"You killed what kept this world in balance. Do you know the consequences that this gesture of yours will bring? "

“The annihilation of the whole world, blah blah blah. Spare me the sermon, I have another Lord ready to welcome me. "

As Aaravos finished the sentence, a blinding light exploded in the cave.

Quick feed the key, " said a voice.

So they did. The dragons threw their mighty breath upon the cube and the star elves chanted a spell together. A beam of starlight shot from the rune, directed towards the cube.

In moments the light faded, and Aaravos was gone, and with him his armies.

Everyone, including dragons and elves, turned towards the trap they had set for the elf, the mirror created with meteoric glass. Beyond the mirror, a furious Aaravos pounded and screamed, the expression on his face a gruesome mask of anger.