Days crept by without event. I spent much of my time observing the people in Levi’s clan and learning how they functioned as a group. The rest of the time, I spent watching the spirits and how they interacted with the clan. Many people were in the process of bonding with the creature-spirits and learning their place in the strange world that had just opened wide to them.
It was hard to tell what the clan thought of me, a stranger among them. No one was particularly cruel to me, but I wasn’t always openly welcomed, either. Sometimes, they shared things with me — food and shelter. Other times, they stuck to their own people and ways.
There was a lot that I didn’t understand. They didn’t mean to be mean, but it was obvious they didn’t always have the time to stop and explain.
Levi spent as much time as he could with Horizon and I. He answered our questions, and tried to clarify things. He told us who was who and what their station was within the clan. Again, despite first appearances, Levi’s people knew their individual jobs and functioned well as part of a group.
My remaining time went to taking care of the nest of Dragon eggs. They were in no real hurry to hatch. I ensured that the crystals remained in proper alignment to sustain the eggs, and that nothing got disturbed.
This meant that I had to visit the Grove, usually daily. This wasn’t a bad thing. The Grove was generally pretty quiet, especially the deeper you went in.
At first, I was a little worried about disturbing the spirits there. They knew the full truth of the things I’d done, after all. They knew what I was when I came there and what I turned into in the end. They saw me release the Flames of Bedlam. They saw me betray one of their own, then force my people into submission.
And yet, they were more accepting of me now than they were back then.
“Hey,” I heard Levi’s voice behind me. He walked up slowly. “I thought I’d find you here.”
I’d gotten lost in thought again. The Grove sometimes distracted me like that. Sometimes I got an odd feeling when I was there. It was so similar to the Call… but that made no sense at all. I’d already answered mine.
I shook myself out.
“Yeah. I’m fine.”
“You don’t sound fine.” Levi watched me with concern. Deep concern.
Had I said or done something that bothered him?
“This place is just strange,” I tried to put my thoughts into words. “It’s always been strange. It should reject me after everything. But it doesn’t.”
“Spirits aren’t exactly people,” he answered. “We don’t really know how they feel about things. Or if they feel things at all.”
I looked at him, then at the dragon-band that wrapped around his wrist. “Doesn’t your spirit guide you? Speak to you? Don’t you understand it?”
“Well… uh…” He didn’t look comfortable discussing this.
“Sometimes,” Levi finally answered. “For important things.”
“Like what?” I pressured him.
He pursed his lips, picking his words carefully. “It’s not a great time to discuss this. We’ll talk about it later.”
It wasn’t like him to completely evade my question like that. It was something he’d say to Horizon when the topic was too complex to approach without a lot of deliberating. My own thoughts lingered on the what Sura said about how Levi had been more secretive lately.
I wasn’t as patient as she was, though.
“Is there a problem?” I asked.
“No.” His answers were getting shorter and I could see a strained fortitude written on his face. He really didn’t want to discuss this.
But that made me all the more curious. “Sure sounds like there’s a problem.”
“Bahamut,” he breathed my name with a hint of warning.
I heard the shift in tone. This made my ears fold back in frustration. Maybe he was the clan’s chief, and he could tell them what to do. I wouldn’t settle for being ordered around and treated like one of his little clan people, however.
Levi saw my expression and dug his heels in. He knew an argument was coming, and he didn’t intend on budging an inch on the matter.
That’s the moment the spirits decided to intervene.
My name rang across the Grove. Whatever I was about to say or do was erased from my thoughts. I turned to stare into the deepest part of the Grove, the place where the Flames had once burned long ago.
I knew that voice.
I took a step forward, towards the Deep Grove. This alarmed Levi, who grabbed my arm, trying to stop me.
“Don’t,” he almost hissed. “You don’t understand…”
My eyes flicked to him, brows furrowed. What was Levi saying? What was he trying to do? What was he afraid of in the Grove? Did he think the Chaos still lingered there?
The voice came again.
I couldn’t stop myself. I had to answer the Call.
Levi stammered and stumbled along with me. He spoke in low, fast words, but I couldn’t hear any of it. My mind was taken. I only knew one thing.
It was a feeling I’d felt… in my previous life. I didn’t know what it meant then. I still wasn’t sure what it meant at that moment.
But when I saw the graceful, gentle glow of the blue-white spirit Dragon take form before me, I almost dropped to my knees.
“Tywys…” I whispered.
“But you died. I saw you die!” I exclaimed.
Tywys gave a sound like soft laughter. I would have been offended if I wasn’t too stunned to think straight. I knew what I saw. I just didn’t understand what I was seeing now.
-You really believe you know all there is to know about the way this all works, don’t you?-
“I didn’t say that…”
-You don’t have to. I know you.-
I pursed my lips. I had no right to be frustrated with her. Not after what I did.
Finally, she clarified. -I do not die, Bahamut. I can be changed and transmuted. But I am no living being. I am of the energies of this world. I show you how to find your own way to these energies.-
-I took the form of the Flames because you willed me to be that way.-
I mulled this over silently.
-The same as you willed the forms of others into Dragons and Chaos.-
I winced at that, still having nothing to say.
-But I did not come here to lecture you,- she told me. -When you broke free of the Chaos, I, too, was free. I returned to this Grove and worked to strengthen myself again.-
I took a deep breath and faced her. “I know now that what I did was wrong. I only saw you and the power you gave me as a way to have my revenge.”
-I know that now. It was my fault. I was too eager. I didn’t see the warning signs. I didn’t recognize the danger I put us both in.-
Was Tywys apologizing to me? Why? I was the one who…
-We Called you here before you were ready. We thought because you responded… that the time had come. We hoped that the Sovereign had finally returned.-
“The what?” I lowered my brows.
Next to me, I felt Levi tense a bit. Something was going on.
-It had been so long since one of the Sovereign was born. So many generations of your people were wiped away with the hostile invasions. Our own were being consumed by Chaos, and we were losing hope and balance.- She blinked at me with those gentle eyes. -Then we found you. We thought all of our troubles were over.-
“What a mistake you made,” I laughed with a hollow sound. Then I shook my head. “But, honestly, I’m not following any of this, Tywys.”
-It’s very simple, Bahamut. You were sent to us to lead us. To be our Sovereign.-