Little more than a week after leaving the ruins of Xerxes, Helvana had dropped Amartía off in the walking city of Metera. She also had allowed him to keep the feather cloak she borrowed him. Much to her annoyance, Metera was quite a ways south from Alefpria, but then again, given Ilunabar's advice, Helvana wasn't as excited about visiting the city as she was before.
They had just departed Metera and were now heading North-West towards Alefpria. Unfortunately, after running into what seemed like a flying lump of ice, Helvana, Lloyd, Gwyn and Frederic had a rather uncomfortable first experience involving snow. They would first stop at the valley they spotted while going South to recover from the event.
As they went over the mountains, the plateau and a monument came into view. What seemed like a giant sword was firmly hilted on the ground.
"Woooah! That sword is huge!" Gwyn expressed his surprise.
"Indeed... Frederic, slow down and circle around it." He cawed at her command and steered right. "This is the work of a god for sure. I can feel a lot of power coming from that sword..."
"Should we leave then?"
"We should, but Frederic's pretty exhausted. Besides, the place could be harmless. Let's scout some more before we- Hmm?" From the direction of the sword, Helvana spotted several objects reflecting light. Frederic cawed informing her what he saw with his superior vision. "Get us out of here!" Frederic answered by beating his wings and gaining more altitude.
"Hel, what's going on?!"
"Something's coming our way. Just hold on tight, you two, we'll get out of this." Helvana glared at the things coming their way. She willed a curse upon them and they lost altitude and speed. With a sudden dive, Frederic dodged one of the things coming from their flank. "Surrounded?" From the mountains came an even bigger group of assailants. They were now close enough for Helvana to see that they were made of metal, she couldn't even imagine what would happen if one crashed at full speed on them. She willed a curse on them as well, but despite this, Frederic swerved left in a panic towards the center of the valley. "Frederic, wait! They're going to corner us!" But the bird didn't obey, all his other paths were blocked by their attackers.
Apparently going the way the flying lumps of metal wanted them to go, they slowed their advance, but kept on 'guiding' Frederic towards the center of the valley.
"Hel, what're we gonna do?"
She looked back to see the brothers hugging each other, Gwyn and even Violet were trembling. "I'll bring them down!" She said gritting her teeth. The metal lumps were now all behind them, which made it easier for Helvana to curse them all. They all fell to the ground before long. Helvana sighed in relief, but her troubles didn't end there as Frederic cawed to her. "I think it's okay now, Frederic. You can land." Having spent what was left of his stamina in the chase, the giant crow descended and landed not far from the giant sword. And then there was silence. Nothing but a gentle breeze blew by.
"What were those things?"
"I have no idea."
"I think so." The surprise left Helvana a bit winded. On the plain field of the valley, Helvana could see the lumps of metal on the distance, they weren't moving. "They're...not dead, but not moving either. It's awfully inconvenient, but Frederic's too exhausted to fly."
"Great. So we're stuck here..."
"Don't worry, I'll make sure they don't move from their spot."
"Yooou are not welllcome here, chaos spawwwn." A deep, resounding voice came from the sword. Before Helvana could turn around to look, a wave of power washed over her and she fell from Frederic.
"Helvana!" Gwyn jumped down without a thought.
"Gwyn, wait!" And Lloyd soon followed.
The brothers quickly helped Helvana stand up. "Get back to Frederic. We need to leave." From all around them the lumps of metal emerged as if sprouting from the ground. It wasn't possible to see it when they were flying, but these things bore a humanoid shape with clear feminine traces, save for featureless faces. They were now completely surrounded.
"I said calm down." She hugged the brothers and they hugged back. "I'll take care of this."
Another metal shape sporting multiple tonalities emerged from the ground, this one much, much bigger than the others and wielding a sword. As Helvana laid her eyes upon the creature she realized something. The power radiating from the valley didn't come from the giant sword, but from the thing before them. She made a huge mistake coming here, and now everyone would pay for it.
But she wouldn't just give up. Helvana turned the Scythe into a sword and pointed it at the metal giant, her trembling hand betraying her fear.
"You tremmble, chaos spawwwn."
"You...did my father, did Vestec do something to you?"
"Vestec's taint plagues this worllld, and I have witnessed these horrooors. In the nammme of Wind Striker I am sworn to clennnse this world of Chaosss."
Helvana lowered her head in thought, doing her best to stay calm. "I'm sorry." She whispered.
Helvana lowered her sword, reverting it back into a ring, and let go of the brothers. She took a few steps forward.
"H-Hel, what are you doing?"
"If it's just me, if it's just Chaos that you want..."
"You will not resissst?"
"I won't. But only if you promise to spare the boys and my crows."
"You woullld sacrifice yourselllf for their sake?"
"I was careless to come here. I could feel your power but mistook it for the giant sword. I..." She knelt in surrender. "I would never forgive myself if they died because of my mistake."
The giant didn't respond, but hmmed in thought.
Lloyd clicked his tongue and dashed towards Helvana. "Wha-" Startled, Gwyn followed right after. They both hugged her.
"What? It's dangerous, you two, so-"
"We won't back away." He interrupted her. "You think you can just throw your life away like that? Like we're any worth without you."
"I-I won't leave you either, Helvana."
"Hey! You so much as touch her and you're in big trouble, you hear me?"
No one made a sound for a painfully slow moment. Lloyd and Gwyn tried to make the bravest expression they could muster and Helvana was deathly afraid of what the giant would do.
"Stannnd." The giant broke the silence.
"What?" Helvana was surprised for a second, but stood up, looking more timid than usual.
"I voweeed to our liege ladyyy Conata to allow safe passage for travelersss. Though you are a spawn of Chaosss, the taint of Vestec is thinnn within youuu. I shall not harmmm you, or your companionnns."
Eyes wide in disbelief, Helvana let out a big sigh and slumped her shoulders, accompanied by the brothers. If she had a life span she would've lost a good couple of years from the scare.
"Do forgive my actionnns and that of my chillldren. You are free to go."
"Can we stay and rest for a while? We're all exhausted after this exchange." She was certainly upset after what happened, but was careful enough to not go too far.
"As you desireee. We will not disturb youuu." Saying that, the giant and the metal creatures went underground, though Helvana could still feel their presence.
The three of them lied down beside Frederic. Maybe they'd set camp later, but for now they just enjoyed the calmness of the plateau.
"Absolutely beat." Helvana leaned back and rested on Frederic's wing.
"Me too" Gwyn as well.
"You tell me." And Lloyd too.
"And you. You so much as touch her and you're big trouble." She said with the lowest pitch her voice allowed. "What would you do if he really did try to kill me?"
"You... Fine, next time I'll just let you die then."
"Aww, did I tease you too much?"
"It's okay, Lloyd, next time I'll save her then."
"Even you, Gwyn?" He let out a defeated sigh while Gwyn and Helvana laughed heartily.
"Seriously though, thanks for supporting me, you two."
She pecked Gwyn in the forehead. "Ehehe." He giggled like the kid he is.
Then she pecked Lloyd in the cheek. "Wha-" He was left surprised and blushing slightly.
"Was that too much for you?" She teased him one more time with her trademark smug smile.
"I was just surprised, nothing more." He turned his face away in denial, though Helvana giggled all the same.
"So, how about we nap a bit, you two?"
"Yeah, why not?"
They all snuggled together and soon were taken by peaceful sleep.
A while later the sun started to go down. They had decided to spend the night there and had already set up a fire. They were finally alone now and in peace.
"By ourselves at last. Honestly, Having Amartía around was starting to drain me."
"You say that, but you looked after him pretty well, huh? You even let him have your cloak."
"That was just a whim. He looked really hopeless by himself, so I wanted to give him a little help."
And Helvana remembered she had something important to put out of her chest now that Amartía wouldn't bother her.
"Right, I had something to talk with you two after we were done with him, didn't I?" She steeled herself to what was ahead of her. Even if it was just talking it felt more frightening than fighting a Realta. "The night he showed up I...realized something." She couldn't help but feel gloom over remembering it.
"Are you okay, Helvana? You sound sad." Gwyn said with a worried tone.
"Hel, you know you can rely on us. Just come out and say it, we'll support you through whatever it is that's bothering you." Lloyd said reassuringly.
"That...might just be the problem."
"I...I seem to have accidentally made you care about me." She hugged her own legs and crumpled up. "Since I first met you two, I really liked the time we spent together. So, without my knowing, I influenced you two to like me and keep coming back to see me."
"Is that true Helvana?"
"Yes, I'm sure of it. Why else would you two ignore what your own neighbors said about me? I don't really know from which point onward my influence started to have an effect, but I know I'm to blame. I made you two be exiled, I made Lloyd get hurt and I ruined your lives." She wasn't crying, but the gloom was making her voice get coarse. "I even did the same thing to Manna... Everyday I worry about what might happen to her with me being away."
"It's okay if you hate me for this. Me being inexperienced back then is no excuse to what I did. I keep blaming myself for this, so I brought you with me because I felt guilty. In fact, the main reason I wanted to go to Alefpria in the first place was so that I could find a new home for you two. I still hope to do that even though Ilunabar told me to be careful around Lifprasil. I want to give you a new life, but I don't want to let go of you either." She sighed deeply. "I'm so pathetic..." Her heart splayed out, she now fell silent.
Gwyn just stared at Lloyd with a confused look on his face, not knowing what to do or say. Lloyd shot back a faint smile to reassure him that it'd be okay. "Hel, did you already break this spell you put on us?"
"Since the day I found out, but the damage's already done."
"I see." He put a hand on her shoulder. "Despite of all that you said, I don't really mind what you did."
"What?" Of all the replies she was expecting, this one was the lest likely. Perhaps her charm would have lingering lasting effects, she thought, so acceptance was possible. "You lost your home because of me, you lost an eye because of me... Why wouldn't you mind it?"
"Because our lives in that village weren't the same since our parents died. These past few years were just...empty."
"And Lloyd worked hard to earn our keep. He couldn't play with me anymore, and he rarely smiled too. I felt really lonely..." Gwyn had a depressed look on his face.
"All the nights that we would cry ourselves to sleep... I just had to swallow up the sadness and look forward. The other villagers offered their support to us, of course, but nothing they did would replace our parents."
"What are you saying? It's not like I can replace them either."
"But you already did, at least for Gwyn. Isn't that right?" He said turning to face his brother.
"I know you've been calling her mom behind my back, Gwyn. You even mumble it in your sleep sometimes. And I'm honestly happy about this."
"Y-you." Helvana lost her composure, even counteracting some of her sadness with the embarrassment. Gwyn on the other hand was stunned from the revelation.
"Hel, what I'm trying to say is that you showing up was the best thing that happened to us for quite some time now. I haven't seen Gwyn smile like he does around you with anybody except our parents. And the same goes for me, I've enjoyed every moment I spent with you. Though I would've preferred if I hadn't lost an eye in the process. It's because of this that I don't mind what you did, even if that's what lead us to this point, I think it was worth it. What about you, Gwyn?"
"I...I also enjoyed myself very much! Even if it's embarrassing for Lloyd to know I call you mom, I still like traveling with you, Helvana."
"So, is that enough to convince you?"
"This is... This is not fair, you two." She said between sniffles. "If you say things like that I'll..."
"You know what else, Hel? I overheard your talk with Amartía that night."
"Then...you already knew of all this?"
"Yes. You shouldn't talk so loudly when people are sleeping, you know?" He wiped a tear off of her face with his finger.
"We love you too, Hel. So don't go throwing your life away for our sake like you did today. Gwyn doesn't need to lose a mother again. Can you promise me that?"
"Lloyd... Gwyn..." She couldn't hold her emotions anymore. She hugged the brothers tightly, almost to the point of hurting, and she cried for the first time, not from sadness, but from happiness.
She didn't let go even after calming down. "You two..." Her voice was strained from all the crying. "Lloyd already knows this, but the both of you are the reason I live for. I promise I'll look after and never abandon you. So you better take responsibility for this, okay?"
"Don't push yourself too hard."
"I'll think about it." They kept on hugging for a while longer. "So..."
"Honestly. What will I ever do with you?" Finally set free from the loving hug, Lloyd set off to prepare their diner. "I'll make something extra good for you today."
"Okay." She said with a smile in her face.
After they had eaten, they all slept together as usual, but this time embracing each other felt much warmer than ever before.
The next morning Lloyd woke up to see that Helvana wasn't beside him. He got up slowly so as to not disturb his brother and came out from under Frederic's wing. He saw Helvana stting beside the unlit bonfire, looking intently at her ring.
"You're up pretty early."
"Oh. Good morning, Lloyd." She was so focused on what she was doing that she hadn't noticed him.
"Sorry, did I interrupt you?"
"Not really, I was just thinking about what I learned from this ring."
"What did you find out?" He said sitting down beside her.
"It seems Vestec built this ring with parts of an old god of death. That explains why it can steal souls."
"Parts...?" He said with a worried look on his face.
"Ironically enough this death god had to die for this ring to be made."
"I-I see. Killing death, huh? That doesn't seem right..."
"Comes to show just how powerful gods are. There's something else too. I noticed that the power of this death god matches that of the curse on some of my crows."
"That thing about them seeking out death?"
"Yeah. So I did a little experimenting with my crows that are cursed."
"You didn't hurt them, did you?"
"Of course not. I figured out that I can see through the eyes of the cursed crows. It was pretty hard at first, but Oscar happens to be cursed and since we share a link it was much easier to see through him than with any other crow."
"Wow, that's actually amazing." Despite his words, his face didn't reflect much surprise.
"I was expecting more of a reaction from you."
"I got used to what you can do over the last few months." He grinned mockingly which gave Helvana a rather sour look on her face. "Really though, that's actually amazing. I'm just teasing you."
"Hoh? So you're learning from me?"
"Took you this long to notice?"
"Hmph. In any case, I don't really have much of an use for this ability since I can fly and turn into a crow myself. Although..." She shot a glance at Lloyd's face. He had been covering his right eye with his bangs for a while now. "No, that could be risky."
"... Maybe I can give you this ability. It won't fix your eye, but you could probably see through a crow's eyes with it. I'm worried it could end up bad though."
"You could die. This isn't the same as what I did to Frederic. I gave him some of my power, but for you I'd have to give you some of my essence for you to control this curse, make you into something...more like myself. I don't know how a mortal would react to this..."
She looked at him straight in the eye. "If I were to find a safe way to give you this power, would you want to have it?"
"I...don't think I understand."
"To control the power of something divine, you'd have to be divine yourself. You'd transcend mortality. Would you want that?" Her expression turned meek. Lloyd's eyes went wide upon realizing what point she was making.
"I..." His words failed him. He just didn't know what to say to something so sudden like this.
"You don't have to decide now. Just keep it in mind, okay?"
"Good morning..." Gwyn said in a slightly groggy from having just woken up.
"Ah. M-morning. Did we wake you up?"
"Not really. Did I oversleep?"
"No, Hel just fell out of bed. Well, now that everyone's up I'll prepare something for us." Lloyd moved to light up the bonfire and prepare breakfast. The next moments were spent in their usual peacefulness as they waited for the food. "Come to think of it." Lloyd broke the silence. "You gave Gwyn and Amartía a cloak, but what about me?"
"Eh?!" Helvana froze with the realization, somehow she completely forgot to make one for him. "Erm... You never asked for one?"
"That's a very pitiful attempt to dodge the question...but I'm asking for one now. So...can I have one?"
"Sure, I guess it's more than overdue." She said as she started to make the shape of the cloak around Lloyd.
"Ah, you don't really have to do it now."
"Don't worry about it. I don't really have anything else to do anyways. Just sit still for a while" She was done with her work before long and pulled the cloak off of Lloyd and laid it on her lap. With a whistle several crows came to her, some landing on Helvana herself and some even on the brothers. She caressed each one of them as she plucked one feather at a time, making sure to not take too many from a single one.
Lloyd and Gwyn just watched the process unfold. "So this is how you make them... I hadn't seen it when you made Gwyn's."
"And how else would I make them?" She said as she continued to add feathers to the cloak.
"They're so well made I just thought you made the feathers grow from the cloak or something."
"I wouldn't be able to reproduce the same texture as real feathers. The real thing's just much softer and warms the body better, I tested it myself."
"And just how much time does it take to finish one?"
"Gwyn's was pretty quick since he's small, but mine took me a couple of hours. Your's should too. I don't mind if you watch me make it, but you have to take care of the food first."
"Ah! Right!" Having almost forgotten about breakfast, Lloyd rushed back to the bonfire.
"Hey! You'll scare the crows like that!"
Gwyn just laughed at the exchange from the sidelines. He seemed to be acquiring a taste for watching their banter.
After they had eaten breakfast, Helvana continued to decorate Lloyd's cloak. It took her a little over two hours to finish, but it turned out perfect. She also took the chance to make a new one for herself. Before she knew it she had spent all morning on it.
"Finally done... Lloyd, how's lunch going?"
"You spent all morning on that and now you demand more food?"
"Well, at least now we're all matching." She said as she displayed her cloak.
"*sigh* Fine, I'll start lunch earlier today..."
The uneventful day ended pretty fast and now they were about to go to sleep. They could've left the valley today, but instead decided to rest for another day. Helvana hunted her quota to feed Frederic and spent the rest of the day thinking. And before she knew it the day had ended.
They gathered around the bonfire to eat dinner as usual.
"Did anyone see the Hairball today?"
"They're hiding under Frederic and won't come out no matter what."
"Maybe they're scared of the metal people?"
"I see. Can't really blame the poor thing."
Helvana looked up in thought. The peacefulness of the valley almost made her forget about the creatures that had attacked them. Even the giant one that spoke to her. "...I wonder if I could defeat the metal people here."
"W-where'd that come from, Hel?"
"It just crossed my mind. I don't have a reason to fight them, but if they had harmed you two or my crows back then I would've fought back. When I was born I thought I wouldn't have any problems, but I keep running into situations that make me doubt my strength. The villagers that attacked Lloyd, the Pack-Minds, the Realta and now the metal giant. I managed to defeat everyone that was a threat to us so far, but I'm not confident I would've won against these metal creatures."
"So you want to become stronger, Helvana?"
"Yes, to protect us if nothing else. I don't want to fail again. Every time I do someone gets hurt..."
"It's okay, Hel, those things happen. You can't save everyone."
"But... I'm supposed to be powerful, I can't accept that. What if next time it's one of you two?"
"But you won't let that happen, right?"
"If you're afraid of us getting hurt, then become stronger. Nothing'll come of it if you just keep on brooding. We said yesterday that we'll support you, so why don't we become stronger together?"
"Right, you two'll be there for me like always."
"Yep, you can always count on us, Helvana." He hugged her from the side.
"And if I doubt myself you two'll reassure me." She said as she stroked his hair.
"Of course. That's what families are for." He hugged her from the other side.
"Right." She smiled warmly. What they told her didn't ease her fears, but just hearing them say that it was all okay was enough calm her down. "Why are we doing this again? I already know all of this."
"What else are we supposed to do when you feel down though?"
"Yeah, and hugging you feels pretty good too."
"That's a bit embarrassing, but thanks." She said as she released the brothers and stood up. She stretched herself and turned around to face them both. "Alright, from now on let's become stronger together. The least I can do is teach you two how to defend yourselves. I'm not that good with a sword, but since nobody else here qualifies it has to be me. But first, we sleep."
"Yeah, let's do our best."
They all snuggled under Frederic's wing as usual. Helvana was expecting things to be different from now given the events of the previous night, but the day didn't turn out to be much different than any other. She didn't mind it, however. She just enjoyed how warm and peaceful it was to hug Lloyd and Gwyn under Frederic how they're used to.
Next morning they finally decided to leave, but before that Helvana wanted to talk with the metal giant on more friendly terms. Standing before the giant sword, Helvana called. "Excuse me, metal giant, I want to speak with you."
There was silence, but before long the familiar shape of the giant emerged from the ground. Even though he said he wouldn't be a threat to her he was still quite intimidating. "What do yooou wish to speak ooof?"
"Firstly, I wanted to thank you for letting us stay." She bowed slightly. "Also, I want to know your name."
"I ammm the metal djinn Aeramen, leader of the Knights Protectorsss and servant of Wind Strikerrr and Conata."
"And I am Helvana, daughter of Vestec and the mother of crows. Today I'm not strong enough to match you, but next time we meet I wish to challenge you."
Aeramen hmmed in wonder. "A match with a child of godsss... A good time has passeeed since I fought your kinnnd. I look forward to this dayyy."
"Goodbye, Aeramen." Turning on her heels, Helvana headed towards Frederic.
Lloyd and Gwyn had prepared their things to leave already. Helvana climbed into Frederic's back and commanded him to leave. Their next stop would be Alefpria.
A week after meeting Amartía, Hel & Co. drop him off at Metera, Helvana gives him her feather cloak and they leave soon after. On their way out they're attacked by the snow djinn of Metera and quickly search for a place to recover.
They find the Hilt not long after and are met by the metal djinn residing there. They're hostile towards Helvana since she's a child of Vestec. The djinn force them deeper into the valley until the reach its center, all the while Helvana keeps on shooting them down with curses.
Thinking that they were safe, Helvana drops her guard and Aeramen blasts her with a wave of power, not enough to hurt her, but enough to knock her down. Being completelly surrounded by djinn, Helvana sees no option other than bargaining her life for the safety of Lloyd, Gwyn and her crows. This takes Aeramen by surprise, and when Lloyd and Gwyn rush to protect her he's assured that she's not of Chaos and lets them go. Hel & Co. spend the rest of the day resting.
That night Helvana takes the chance that Amartís isn't around to tell the brothers that she has been influencing them into liking her for the past months. Lloyd and Gwyn, however, reassure her that they don't mind what she did and that their lives are better now that they're with her. They tell her that they love her, she cries and life's back to normal.
On the next morning Helvana studies Death's Scythe and learns how Vestec made it and how the curse on some of her crows work. (1 Might spent to learn about the Death Domain. Don't know what Portfolio this would count to, so I'll leave blank for now.) Helvana learns about the Eyes of Reathos and how to replicate them for free because of her Portfolio of Hexes. She tells what she learned to Lloyd and mentions that she could give him the power to see through a crow's eyes, but states that it could kill Lloyd. She asks him if he'd want to receive her power if she could find a safe way to so, to which he offers no answer.
They're interrupted by Gwyn waking up and Lloyd goes to prepare breakfast. While he's at it he asks Helvana why she didn't make a feather cloak for him yet. She spends the rest of the morning making a cloak for Lloyd and a new one for herself.
That night Helvana remembers of the other close calls they had before and she broods over the fact that someone always gets hurt when she fails to protect those around her. Lloyd and Gwyn tell her that it's alright and that they should become stronger together from now on, to which Helvana eagerly agrees.
Next morning Helvana thanks Aeramen for letting them stay at the Hilt. They exchange names and titles and Helvana says that she'll return when she becomes stronger to challenge Aeramen to a match, to which he says he'll look forward to. Hel & Co. then leave towards Alefpria.
Starting Might: 5 -1 Might to learn of the Death Domain (no Portfolio yet)