The Chronicles of Estiah

Chapter 10: Plan

Golden sunlight was piercing the cover of the leaves to drop over the motionless Elissa. Even the little blessing of nature was not enough to animate the little soul, and yet the young man standing in front of Nikkum just claimed he could do the unimaginable. Resurrection spells were said to exist during the Ancient Time, before even the great wars between the humans and the Shadow Beings. So many genius magi spent their lives in the pursuit of this knowledge, so many humble bodies were outlasted by nature's law.

Nikkum had heard the legends. This time, the one in his way was his own ghost. He had to decide whether to trust these insane words, whether to cling onto that glinting hope. Deep inside he knew that he should not even listen to this madness, that only the weak could be tricked by such promises... But perhaps just like Saar said, he had been secretly seeking purpose of life, such as the one he had ages ago. Saar was obviously plotting something; he didn't even need to ask since it was entirely a mutual understanding. People were able to become allies only because they had something to share and to hide. A blatant relationship would only lead to imbalance, and thus to destruction.

After a moment of silence, Nikkum finally spoke: "So, why do I have to resurrect her?"

"You don't have to, you want to." The smirk was back on Saar's childish face, capricious and yet confident.

"Whatever." Nikkum was quick to run out of words, but it was probably because Saar was completely right about him.

"So it seems you accepted my proposal, I would go in more details if we were not running out of time, we have something to deal with, both of us. Resurrection needs a lot of preparation since it's a very complicated process. I can't perform it right now, right here. If you have the slightest trust in me, come with me. I'll explain everything to you on the way."

"Guessed so." Nikkum didn't have much choice anyway. He pointed toward the little sleeping girl. "Are we going to leave her here like this? This wood will be infested by wild and starving animals soon."

"Of course not."

Saar raised his hands and started murmuring some indistinct words. For the first time, Nikkum could see one of the Charms where he was drawing his spell from: a single elegant ring on his left hand. A Silvery aura was pouring from that ring and swirling around his right hand. Being used to the quick red flashes of his blades, and having witnessed the quickness of Saar, Nikkum couldn't help wondering why the releasing process took so much time. Still, he couldn't keep his eyes away from the dance of this glinting liquid.
All of a sudden, a huge amount of grass erupted from the ground, whirling around the young girl's body. Emerald lights were sparkling from this little tornado of leaves, and in a few seconds, she was completely wrapped in a green cocoon, made of plants and flowers.

"Hey, don't turn her into some vegetable!" Even amazed by the magic scene, Nikkum still had to point out something was wrong with the ritual.

Saar ignored the barbarian's idiotic comment, flipped his hands and raised them into the sky. Giant wooden roots emerged from the brown soil carrying the scent of fresh earth, nested around the cocoon, and eventually turned into a fully grown tree. Elissa's body was sealed in this natural shield, in this sea of life. Saar relaxed his arms as he finished his flawless work, and started walking towards the floating city.

Troubled, Nikkum scratched his head before yelling out at his new companion: "Wait, won't her body decay?"

Without slowing down, Saar replied: "The plants are feeding her life, and keeping her body intact."

"What if a logger tries to cut it down?"

"Try your hardest axe on it to see which one breaks down first."

"What if the forest catches fire?"

"Then it will be the only tree standing - easier for us to find it when we come back later."

"What! You can't know which one she's in with your spells? I mean they all look the same!"

"Then mark something on it."

"But... We're too far from it already, I can't tell which one it is!"

"Oh, you'd better find a way to remember it, finding this tree among a forest will indeed be hard."

"..."

Nikkum had never been this curious about magic spells. On the road to Zeal, countless questions were asked, but few answers were given. He couldn't really be blamed for being skeptical about the possibility of bringing someone back to life, as this pale, almost white young man claimed. The song of nameless birds in the forest contrasted with Saar's superficial appearance, and the vivid picture of green seemed to be desperately trying to remind Nikkum that he was walking in a world of concreteness, a world of life. Every now and then, drops of water timidly made contact with his bronze skin, only to be quickly vaporized by the warrior's resolution. However, Saar was hardly intimidated by the outpouring spirit next to him, his coldness and steadiness didn't make him look like a fresh adventurer at all.

"Can't you just send us back to Zeal or wherever you want to go? With those amazing spells, in a blink?" Nikkum sounded whining, as the dense wood almost completely covered the sky. He had no idea how far Saar took him when he somehow connected the main portal of Zeal with a teleporting spell.

"High level spells require a lot of focus and energy. I need to rest a little before we reach our destination, just take this as a little promenade, and keep in mind the plan I just told you about."

"Yeah, you spoke as if you knew everything beforehand."

"Don't try it." Saar threw a quick look from the corner of his eye to the oversized axe that Nikkum had just released in stealth, "I'm not tired enough to die by a critter's hand."

"Then taste the critter's axe!" The cutting axe flew in a horizontal arc towards Saar's back, followed by another slash aiming to split him in half from head to toes.

"Air Fold!"

A wind bubble quickly unleashed from Saar, both cuts were absorbed by the elastic air, slowing down the lightspeed strikes that Nikkum had put his full strength into. Before the murderous edge reached the young wizard, another incantation was pronounced. Nikkum saw a brown flash as the earth underneath his feet crumbled and made him lose his balance.

Saar sighed. "How many worthless tries are you going to make? Try it again, and hell awaits you."

Suddenly he realized there was a metal chain wrapped around his left leg, and the falling bull yelled: "Then we're both paying a visit!"

Nikkum's superiority in brute force shot the young wizard's confidence, and took him to the ground. It was unusual for Nikkum to give up his slicing weapons, but somehow the cunning Saar fell for the little trick by overlooking the fact that sometimes animals could also come up with a plan and adapt to their overwhelming opponent. Saar was not pleased with the situation, a murderous gleam abruptly flashed on his face as he gritted his teeth, only to quickly fade out.

"Release from your eternal chain of hell, live on the blood of..."

"Hold on! You don't have to summon a Blood Golem in this place!" Nikkum's surrender was immediate, "I didn't mean a death match!"

"But you tried to cut me down." Saar stopped casting and stood up.

"Indeed." Nikkum was on his feet as well, patting dust off his cloth, "But you'd stop my attacks anyway."

Saar's expression was dominated by a tenuous annoyance. He didn't care to answer the obvious.

"I've yet to see a mage of your caliber at such young age, the magi I've fought - and killed, usually freaked out with a weapon pointed at them. None could finish these lengthy casting words like you do, I simply had to kill them faster."

"There are a lot of ways to gain time for a long cast, you just haven't fought against a worthy opponent yet. Still, I'm amazed that you know about Blood Golems..."

"Yeah, from what I heard there are only a few high summoners that can actually use them. I've seen it once in my childhood..." Suddenly, Nikkum's face darkened.

"Unwanted past, hum?" Saar watched Nikkum's hand grasping so hard that it became white, "And your sister was murdered by a bunch of blind followers."

"She is not..."

After some hesitation, Nikkum explained how he had met the girl and why they were traveling to Zeal. Saar listened quietly, but didn't show any compassion or sadness. Perhaps the story was not touching enough, or perhaps it was just another of the madness that he had witnessed in the flow of a wretched time. He started to march again, breathing in the same air that had been around for thousands of years, towards a so distant destiny.

"You'd better not fool me, geezer." After finishing the story about Elissa, the homicidal seriousness in Nikkum's eyes gave off a clear image of the consequences in case Saar lied about the slight details of what he had said.

Saar chased off the ominous ambiance with a laugh: "No matter how strong I may appear to you, I'm only twenty."

"So what was the sacred animal during the Inachis Fair in the year you were born? You must have been raised by wild Yetis in the coldest and remotest Windscar if you don't know about Inachis Fair."

"Eh, it must have been the Rabbit. I remember having so many bunny related things when I was still a baby." Saar answered the strange question quite light-hearted, only to see Nikkum releasing another set of axes. "Wait, you don't expect me to remember everything from when I was born, do you?"

"The Inachis Fair is held every three years, there was no such fair in the year of your birth. This year they're making the turtle the sacred animal." The dense metals blades in Nikkum's hands were ready to strike soon again depending on Saar's answer.

"You're at it again." Saar sighed. He had picked up a troublesome companion; the brutal animal had more intelligence than it seemed. "Fine, let's have it your way. I'm actually older, and found a spell to make me look younger to deceive my enemies and women. If you ever live long enough to see me dead, then you'll be able to witness my wrecked body. Is that good enough for you? Now just keep walking, we're near Zeal."

"Fine." Nikkum didn't believe a single word of that babble, and yet he knew that it was too late to stop following this man who might hold the key to fulfill his hope, his purpose.

The road widened up as they reached the border of the forest. They left the wilderness to join the skillfully crafted statues surrounding the main grounding portal of Zeal. As Nikkum looked at it, he realized how much effort must have been required to alter the destination of such grandiose device, and how bottomless Saar's knowledge about the magic probably was. The flow of people pouring in and out through the device was back to normal despite the earlier mess, but the number of city guards had significantly increased. More Slayers could even be seen, supervising the public order. A freshly added picture was standing out in the wooden bounty board near the gate. The hastily drawn picture of Nikkum was larger, and stuck over the faces of old wizards probably wanted for illegal experiments on animals or other ridiculous offenses. Saar was not on the board, his cloak and his timely arrival at the end of the massacre had allowed him to remain unseen during the incident, as he had probably planned it.

"Focus on our plan." Saar had to remind Nikkum who appeared untamable.

The approach of the wanted man made a fuss in the crowd. Those who didn't know about the earlier slaughter thought them to be a funny combination, but those who actually witnessed the carnage hastily dispersed as far as they could. The hands of guards were shivering and the slayers were struggling to keep order in their squads, and trying to understand what was happening.

Every step was rumbling the ground, shaking the heart of the weak. The tension slowly building up in the air was suffocating for every bystander, even the sun had to timidly hide behind the dense clouds, leaving the world in a gray chaos. The deranging wind started to blow into every spectator's soul; nobody seemed to know when the clash was going to break out.

Saar marched straight to the front and raised his voice.

"I've captured the murderer of hundreds, the beast of malice. Show me to Abedgar the Venerable!"