He felt pitiable of the young lad who was to bear the heavy burdens in his stead. But on the other hand, he felt much relieved and light-hearted at the same time. It was only after having been in the position to lead, he realized deeply that it was much easier to be the follower instead.
Mur let out a faint sigh as he turned back around. He found the blond lad and the elders were now talking in whispers with their heads put together, as if there hadn’t been any squabble between them at all.
"That place has really changed?"
Seeing them chatter on friendly terms, Mur turned to take a good look at his surroundings. Nothing was much visible in this darkness—they were in an enormous underground cavern, which no one knows about its existence, except for the elders and the chief himself.
It was the spell initiated in this very cavern that acts as a protective layer to keep their hideout from the rest of the world.
‘Lark’s spell…’ There was a bitter smile on Mur’s face. To obtain this, something of equal value must be lost. It was the most fundamental principle applied to every spell. In order to initiate such a strong spell, a medium and a vessel of equal value was needed.
A Lark had then become the vessel needed for the spell to initiate in this underground cavern. The very fact that the tribe who had summoned the larks into this world, was using the lark’s power to protect themselves was kept as a secret, hidden with great confidentiality.
"He’s quite tough for his age." Mur turned to the voice and saw that an elder had his eyes set on Aldrit.
Aldrit’s figure was unclear to the old man’s eyes as his eyesight had become so poor after long years of living under this dark underground. He hasn’t gone blind completely but all he could make out was the faint figure of objects. His unfortunate surroundings had highly developed his senses. In fact, he learned to identify the location and the size of the object from the sounds reflecting from the walls and ceiling.
"How old did you say he was?"
"He’s nineteen, Sir."
– I bet he’s either asleep or had swooned long ago.
The blond lad quipped. A retort came quick as the elder clicked his tongue at the lad. "You still say that after having seen how tenacious our tribe could be with your own eyes?"
The blond lad shifted the subject without refute.
– Just how much longer do we have to wait? Are you really going to follow whatever decision that mere lad makes?
The old man responded with a sneer. "That was a part of our contract, wasn’t it?"
Far back in the past, the ancestors of the wanderers encountered a very special kind of lark and they both had agreed on a contract to join forces. While the lark provided a safe hideout for the tribe, the tribe agreed to help initiating a spell which the lark demanded.
And it was the seven elders who had volunteered in becoming the media that were needed for the spell to work. By now, they all have aged way beyond the normal lifespan of an average human being. However, they had long been dead and forgotten from the tribe’s history. But that wouldn’t change the fact that they had sacrificed their entire lives for the spell, and it was the spell itself which was keeping them alive to this day.
However, the elders had attached a condition when they made the contract with the lark, that the spell’s effect was never permanent, so that their contract had to be renewed every time a new chief was appointed.
Simply said, the seven elders will break the spell the moment the new chief decides not to renew the contract. And once the spell breaks, the elders will lose the force that has been keeping them alive and will fall into an eternal sleep altogether.
When Mur was given the choice, he chose to renew the contract. The tribe would lose their hideout once the spell breaks and he wasn’t prepared to cope with such huge changes.
The elder went on as the blond lad kept his silence.
"We made a deal in the past. You are not going to go back on your word, are you?"
– You are going to be the one who’s sorry. Do you think you’ll ever survive without this hideout?
"That’s for our descendants to worry about. We’ve done our part."
– That’s harsh. I thought you humans were more than willing to die for their child, am I wrong?
"For my own child, I would. But descendants are a different matter. Why don’t you start worrying about yourself? Once the spell breaks, it’s only a matter of time before your location is discovered."
With that said, everyone hushed up altogether. All eyes were then turned to Aldrit as he slowly rose to his feet. His body must have stiffened as he staggered a little when he tried to stand. But he soon recovered his balance after a few wobbled steps.
Aldrit went up slowly to the people gathered before him. After giving a light nod at Mur when their eyes met, Aldrit then turned to the seven elders and gave them a deep bow on his knees.
"Allow me to do my homage to the great ancestors as a descendant. I will never forget the noble sacrifices you’d made for our tribe."
The elders looked gratified as they nodded in approval.
As he rose, Aldrit turned his gaze on the blond lad.
– So, have you made your decision? What are you going to do with the spell?
"I defer my decision."
"Defer?!" A gruff voice was heard instead of the voice which ringed in their heads before. "Did you all hear him? He said he wants to defer the decision. What does he mean by that?"
The blond lad raised his voice as he looked around at the elders. Some of the elders had put their hands to their ears with frowns on their faces.
Aldrit went on to explain further.
"I’ll need more time to gather and contemplate on every information I can get since my decision will affect the entire fate of our tribe. This is no easy decision to make in just a few days’ time. As it happens, I have plenty of questions for you… Mara. Is it right for me to call you that?"