Raven stared at Fenris, who still sat cross-legged on the floor, with Javelin in front of him. For a moment she thought she had heard him wrong, but his crooked smile told her otherwise.
“Soul Bound?” Raven’s face distorted slightly. ‘Like some type of soul marriage?’
She didn’t say the last part out loud, but Fenris seemed to be reading her mind; noting her reaction, he chuckled. “Don’t give me that look, young Raven, it is not some sappy romance thing. Although, it is not uncommon that the Soul Bound ends up that way.”
Raven wasn’t convinced. “Then what is it?”
“It is actually rather straight forward; once Soul Bound, you and the boy will have your soul prisms linked together, allowing you to share each others spirit connections. Naturally, this will have an extremely beneficial effect on your future development since whenever one of you gains an additional spirit connection, the other one will too.”
Raven raised an eyebrow. “Really?”
“Yes. It is considered one of the best cultivation aids within the Realms, but, due to the risks and the harsh prerequisites, it is still very rare,” Fenris explained, a small spark of excitement in his eyes. “If this succeeds, both of your cultivation levels should soar – given enough time.”
It sounded like a miracle cure, but Raven didn’t believe in miracles. Her eyes narrowed. “You say our soul prisms will be bound together – I doubt spirit connections will be the only things we will share.”
“Well, no. Your souls will be linked, so naturally there will be a few other consequences.” A mischievous smile flashed across Fenris’ face. “Do you want the short list, or the long?”
“The long,” Raven answered with a deadpan expression. The answer wasn’t likely to change her mind, but she needed to know what she was getting herself – and Eric’s reincarnation – into.
“Very well,” Fenris said, his mouth twitching slightly. “Since your souls will be linked, you will both be able to sense the other’s emotions and location at all times. You will also be able to communicate mentally, much like you already can with your brother, only there will be no distance limitations for you and the boy.”
Raven nodded in understanding. So far there wasn’t anything too hard to handle – although the emotions thing sounded like a major headache, in the long-run.
“Also, with your spirit connections shared, it will give you an additional defense against attacks like the one the boy is under right now – as long as one of you still retains your spirit connections, the other’s soul will prevail. However, if one of you has your soul prism shattered, the other one will suffer the same fate.”
“So if he dies, I die?” Raven asked.
“Generally, yes, but that is no different from the risk you are taking to save him, right?”
“Just asking,” Raven replied, shaking her head. “What else? My memories . . .”
“Will remain your own,” Fenris answered before Raven could finish the question. “However, once bound, the mark from his soul touch will have left you and returned to the boy; it is not impossible that he will have regained his own memories by then.”
Now Raven’s body froze, her face paling. ‘He would remember?’ Raven wasn’t sure she wanted him to. Subconsciously, she clenched her fists, but soon relaxed again. ‘I guess he deserves to remember, but as for what he thinks of it . . .’
“Apart from this,” Fenris continued, “I am sure that there are plenty of other consequences – good and bad – but I myself am not Soul Bound, so I only know what others have told me.” Fenris gaze grew more intense. “So, young Raven, are you still willing to save this boy?”
“Sister. . .” Hoatzin called, his worry apparent.
Raven looked over at her brother, sitting nervously on Javelin’s bedpost. She gave him a warm smile before she tugged at the spacial ring on her finger. Wiggling it loose, Raven placed the coppery ring on her bedside table. “If something happens, all you need is in here.” She stretched out a hand to pat her brother’s head. “I’m proud of you, Hoatzin. I hope you know that,” Raven said, for only him to hear, but Hoatzin gave no response.
She then turned to face Fenris. “What must I do?”
With a face that clearly indicated how pleased he was with her actions, Fenris indicated the space next to Javelin. “Lie down, close your eyes, and don’t resist me – I will guide you through it.”
Raven did as she was told, but before she shut her eyes, she looked up at Fenris – her gaze so intense that it sent an involuntary shiver down his spine. “Why are you helping us, Fenris?” she asked, not bothering with the normal honorifics. “You have asked for no favors for this.”
Fenris smile enigmatically. “Boredom?” he asked more than stated. “Don’t worry, young Raven, I swear on my soul prism that – in this instance – I will do nothing but help you be Soul Bound to this boy, not asking for anything in return.”
Raven’s eyes twitched slightly, but she saw the tell-tale sign of a soul oath appearing on Fenris’ forehead. She considered the man’s words carefully but could think of no loop-holes that might come back and bite her, so she finally gave in and closed her eyes.
It didn’t take long before she felt Fenris sending his spirit essence into her, enveloping her soul prism in a deep blue mist. Raven sensed him slowly drawing up a complicated diagram on the surface of the prism, guiding her to follow suit with her own spirit essence.
Suddenly, the entire diagram shuddered violently, immediately expanding to twice its size and completely covering the prism. In the next instant, Raven felt a searing sensation run through her mind as all her spirit connections simultaneously twisted and started merging with the diagram.
As her connections changed, Raven felt her consciousness slowly slipping. She barely noticed Fenris grabbing her hand and the sharp stab in her palm that followed. She did, however, notice the gentle warmth that started spreading through her body, originating from her hand. Entirely by reflex, Raven’s hand clenched and only then did she realize that she was holding something.
‘Javelin?’ she wondered in a daze.
“Oh right, I forgot to mention th-. . .”
Raven thought she heard Fenris say something, but the pain in her head increased yet again, and Raven’s mind faded into darkness before she could register what was said.
Next to her, Javelin’s body fiercely convulsed once, before growing still yet again.
Cold. That was all I could feel, and around me there was nothing but darkness.
Where am I?
“Eric!” a distant woman’s voice called.
Who is it? Who is she calling?
I forced my eyes open but was immediately blinded by how white the world was beyond my eyelids. A blurry figure was leaning over me, shielding me from what seemed like heavy snowfall. I couldn’t see her face clearly, but, even though she did so quietly, I could still tell that she was crying.
Why is she crying?
For some reason, the woman’s tears felt wrong to me, misplaced. I tried lifting my hand, wanting to touch her face, but my arm was so heavy that I could barely move it. The woman must have noticed my attempt, because she quickly caught my weak hand and pulled it to her chest.
My vision cleared momentarily and I could see two beautiful black eyes staring down at me, filled with both confusion and grief. I didn’t like seeing her so sad. I forced a smile but in the next moment the world started turning black again.
I could feel the woman pulling me closer to her. I wanted to speak to her, tell her not to be sad on my account, but I couldn’t move my mouth. Soon, I was once more alone in the cold darkness.
Am I dying?
Just as I was about to give in to the inevitable and let go, the voice called again – closer now and with more determination.
With a jolt, both Javelin’s and Raven’s eyes snapped open. Sometime during the binding ritual their bodies had been turned to face each other, so their gazes instantly met.
At once, a myriad of complicated emotions swept over the two of them, some their own, some belonging to the person they faced. Raven could feel Javelin’s confusion as if it was her own, while Javelin, on the other hand, sensed Raven’s relieved apprehension – making him feel even more confused.
For a moment, the two of them stared at each other and just like before, Raven felt herself getting lost in Javelin’s wondrous eyes, swept away by the various blues and golden sparks within. Or was it Eric’s eyes? It was strange; no matter how she tried, Raven couldn’t remember what color they had been in his past life.
Javelin smiled weakly at her and opened his mouth to speak, but before a word could leave him, the light in his eyes faded as he grew limp yet again.
“Javelin!” Raven called, worried that something had gone wrong.
“He is fine, young Raven,” Fenris explained, his voice sounding close to exhaustion. “I have simply withdrawn my spirit essence from him, letting the Phoenix Death Lotus run its course.”
Raven sat up on the floor and looked at Fenris, immediately noticing how pale he looked; a great deal of effort must have been required from him to pull off the soul binding. Nonetheless, Raven’s first question still concerned Javelin. “I thought the plant would be dealt with by now?” she asked.
“The Phoenix Death Lotus cannot be removed, but once it consumes all of the boy’s spirit essence and connections, it will still be unable to take residence in the Soul Bound soul prism.” Fenris coughed twice before he continued. “Once it runs out of sustenance, it will only take a few days before the Phoenix Death Lotus withers and dies.”
Raven nodded in understanding and was about to ask more when Hoatzin’s small body suddenly slammed into Raven, burrowing himself deep in Raven’s robes.
“Hoatzin?” Raven asked, but no reply came. She smiled softly and gently patted her brothers back. “I’m fine now,” she comforted, “sorry for worrying you.” At this moment, Raven couldn’t help but feel that even if her brother might not approve of her and her means, at least he still cared for her.
When Hoatzin still remained silent, Raven turned her attention back to Fenris. “Thank you,” she said, not needing to ask if the process had succeeded or not.
Fenris only shrugged in response as he leaned back and started recuperating his spirit essence.
Curious to examine what had changed, Raven closed her eyes and sent her awareness inward. When she reached the location of her soul prism Raven paused in shock. Where there before had been only one crystallized prism, there were now two – slowly rotating around each other. One was clear green with some light blue hues in it, which was Raven’s own soul prism. The other was on the borderline between red and orange – which had to be Javelin’s – only this one was practically transparent, as if it rather was a hologram.
Looking more closely, Raven noticed that while the now 409 spirit connections her own soul prism had where substantial and completely under her control, the 24 which belonged to Javelin’s, where significantly less corporal and utterly unresponsive to her commands. Additionally, Javelin’s spirit connections did little to help Raven’s perception of the world around her, as her own would.
They did, however, supply her with spirit essence, which traveled via Javelin’s soul prism, into her own, and then throughout her body in a pulsating fashion. With every new pulse of spirit essence, Javelin’s prism seemed to grow infinitesimally less transparent in her mind.
Raven also noticed that there was a sense of purity over the spirit essence that she received via Javelin’s soul prism, which seemed to have a calming effect on the killing intent that had been almost permanently merged with her own. She guessed that, with a bit of practice, she should be able to use this feature to more adeptly control the nature of her spirit essence.
‘Perhaps healing skills won’t be as hard for me in the future,’ she speculated.
As Raven was contemplating all this, she suddenly realized that only 24 out of Javelin’s 25 spirit connections remained. Raven frowned, but she understood what was happening; the Phoenix Death Lotus was destroying Javelin’s established spirit connections.
“It’s beginning,” she said and opened her eyes to look down at the boy next to her. Raven wanted to inspect what was going on within Javelin, but the moment her spirit essence entered his body, the Phoenix Death Lotus grabbed hold of it and started absorbing it. She could only helplessly retract her spirit essence and wait.
A few hours passed before the last of Javelin’s spirit connections faded from the transparent soul prism in Raven’s mind. The world seemed to slow down as Raven nervously observed Javelin’s prism. She was worried that the crystal’s red-orange color would fade, indicating that his soul was leaving him, but it didn’t.
“Very well then,” Fenris suddenly said and got to his feet. Raven raised her head to look at him, finding his complexion significantly improved. “I shall be taking my leave, young Raven.” Fenris stretched his spine and yawned, revealing sharp fangs in his mouth, his movements causing him to suddenly seem a lot more wild and animistic.
“Don’t forget the favor you owe me from before,” he reminded with a wolfish grin and started walking towards the door. “Oh, and I expect my grandchild will be coming by sometime soon; his training is almost over.”
Without waiting for a response from Raven, Fenris walked out the door and disappeared completely.
“Seriously,” Raven wondered out loud, “what level of cultivation is that man at?” She could feel the movement of the particles in the air outside her room, but still had no idea how Fenris had left; what did that tell her about his abilities?
“Gadwall called him Spirit Legend Fenris. Perhaps ‘Spirit Legend’ is his cultivation level? Like ‘Spirit Master’, only higher?” offered Hoatzin. His voice was calm and collected, making no mention of what Raven had just risked.
“Possibly, but the title alone doesn’t say much.” Raven looked pensively at the door Fenris had left through for a while and then looked away. “I just know we should be happy he’s not our enemy.”
“I am not so sure we should be happy to be his friends either,” added Hoatzin grudgingly. “Hey, where are you going?”
While Hoatzin was talking, Raven had gotten up, lifted Javelin to his bed and was currently headed for the door when her brother’s call stopped her. “To get a bath – why, do you wish to join me, big brother?” she teased, but Hoatzin gave her a questioning look.
“Then what about him?” he asked and pointed at the unconscious Javelin.
“What about him? Fenris said it would take a few days before the Phoenix Death Lotus’ effects wear off; it’s not like he’ll be waking up any time soon,” said Raven and inwardly added; ‘and I’m not so sure I want to be here when he does. . . .’
“But you cannot leave him behind. . . . Did you not hear what Fenris said?”
Raven frowned and, noting her confusion, Hoatzin continued to explain; “Fenris said that as long as the soul binding is unstable, you can’t leave his side. Within a few meters at first.”
“He said what!?” Raven paled.
“Fenris said that you have to stay within the stable radius of his soul prism; a distance that will increase quickly as your two soul prisms adapt to one another. It is also only when this process is complete that you two will be fully Soul Bound.”
Ignoring Raven’s shock, Hoatzin happily repeated himself. She got the distinct feeling that he was feeling a bit smug about his sister’s reaction – as if it was just deserts for her reckless risk taking.
“Did he say how long this ‘stabilizing’ would take?” Raven asked, afraid of the answer.
“Until both parts are equally real,” Hoatzin said, doing his best to imitate Fenris’ mischievous voice.
She got up and tentatively walked to the door. Just as she passed through the door frame, Raven felt a stabbing pain in her mind, as if something was tearing it apart. Quickly she stepped back into the room and immediately the pain faded.
Raven looked back at Javelin, lying unconscious on his bed. In a few days time, he would wake up and Raven would have to face him and, more importantly, his past memories.
Deep in the central mountain peak, a green-clothed figure appeared with a flicker in the air in front of the large reverse-flowing water fall. Quickly, the figure lowered itself to one knee, revealing a fluffy white tail that reached below his suspended feet.
“Spirit Legend Fenris greets Spi-. . .”
“You interfered,” an archaic voice interrupted Fenris before he could finish his greeting.
Fenris chuckled slightly and stood up. “I do what my master tells me to,” he replied with a shrug. “Surely you have no complaints about that?”
“Your master?” Two great eyes appeared in the depths of the waterfall, glaring at Fenris as if trying to bore holes into him. “What is your master’s interest in a child from a minor realm like mine?”
Fenris shrugged again, causing the owner of the two vicious eyes to snort disdainfully. Nonetheless, the latter still conceded; “fine,” he said begrudgingly, “I shall allow it.”
This time, Fenris’ amusement didn’t stop at a mere chuckle and he laughed out loud. “Call it what you will, but you should do your best to help that child rather than leading her astray.”
The two eyes in the waterfall narrowed. “Or what?” the archaic voice challenged.
“Or it won’t be me who interferes next time.”
With that, Fenris’ body flickered yet again as he disappeared into thin air. Left behind were only the two eyes, whose previous viciousness had been muddled by a tinge of fear.