Tern Yigh Qermen stood on the lowest floor of his mountain lair alone. The two sudden intruders left him just as quickly as they came.
They were warmly welcomed by Tern in his residence. He remembered how they were looking through the huge living space filled with ancient artefacts that came from before the kingdom that existed on the territory before Trelos-Agapi was founded as they were being given a tour across countless floors of the incredible structure hidden inside the tall mountain.
Even Lachersia, that ridiculous lass, who was very proud of her terrib…ly beautiful tower couldn’t help but exclaim in admiration for the technical skill involved in building the lair. As for Jennifer, the strange little girl that came with Lachersia, she was fascinated by the mind-boggling sights that seemed to have come out of a fairy tale. There were forests, rivers, an artificial Sun and an artificial Moon that created a cycle of day and night; there were unicorns and butterflies the size of unicorns, flowers and mushrooms that would suddenly break into a song and mice in butler suits that would offer tea and pastries as they walked.
Tern loved those reactions. He felt his old heart warm up when the little girl would look with round eyes as Empyrean Bees flew overhead and spread sweet pollen on their way or how she tottered away from the stream when a Sharkfish Octopus marched out of it.
It was completely understandable why the Grand Mage rarely came out of his residence. He had built a world all for himself and filled it with a great many wonders and miracles. It was a world untouched by the taint of the rest of the secular world and it allowed him to immerse himself in his memories and dreams.
Tern, as an elf had a natural lifespan that could rival a Grand Mage even without any accomplishments in the Arcane but as a Grand Mage, his lifespan probably exceeded millions of years. He wasn’t the weakest Grand Mage in the kingdom because he lacked the talent or the resources. He lacked the desire to seek the secrets of the world or progress personally.
All he cared about now was taking care of the Lands where his old comrades, friends, lovers and children rested.
He was left all alone before he even noticed it, everybody he has ever held dear drifted away one by one and were claimed by the passage of time. His heart withered slowly, drop by drop as the centuries flew by at a speed that could cause one’s eyes to spin. How could a husk of a man like him get excited about finding more of the world’s secrets and progress on the path of magic when even the most colorful sights in the world couldn’t steer his passion?
And yet, he felt very warm when he watched the interactions between his monster-like junior who had already exceed him in both knowledge and power and the young girl who was so fresh and new to the world it felt tragic that she was fated to face the Demon Wave.
It reminded him of how his wife and he acted with each other when she was alive.
His wife… He really loved her. He loved her so much that when she lied on her death bed, he was sure that the world would die after the lights in his wife’s eyes went out. And for him, the world really died.
He loved her so much that he continued to live through the tears after she died, just so there would be at least one person who would be able to fondly remember her smile.
Tern sighed and shook his head. What happened can’t be changed. He could only stay here, at their grave and see to it so that their memories wouldn’t be disgraced.
“This place is quite beautiful!”
He suddenly heard a very charming voice exclaim. He quickly turned and saw an unrealistically beautiful young maiden with blond hair and blue eyes. No, she wasn’t young. He immediately saw that she was much older than she appeared by the weary look in her perfect eyes. Her aura reeked of death and just being close to her caused him, one of elves who were innately aligned with nature and spirits of life, to feel deeply disgusted and terrified.
“You know, I never truly understood the feelings such as loneliness or sadness that all elves and other lower beings with a long lifespan inevitably face. For a pure-blooded like me, relationships were very simple: those below in the hierarchy were tools and to those above we were tools. Love, affection, grief, such things were not something I could experience. I have to be thankful to the Overseer for reincarnating me as a human and letting me feel such emotions”
The disgusting thing spoke completely unconcerned about the Grand Mage that was frozen in terror. She seemed to be speaking to herself more than telling it all to Tern.
“Love…”, she muttered with a warm smile “I don’t regret feeling it. Even with all the pain it caused me, I would still fall in love with him if I could turn back time… You saw those two, right? The somewhat-decent human Grand Mage and the half-elf little girl? I think there might be something going on between them, don’t you think? I can feel it because the scene seems too familiar to me. Sooo, because I’m not quite sure what to do or if my guess is right, you will help me spy on them!”
She flashed a brilliant smile that would cause countless men and women to lose their minds but to Tern it looked like a mountain of skulls churned.
“Why… should… I… Haaa… Why should I help you… Damn necromancer?!”
Tern hated necromancers the most. His wife was killed by a crazy maniac that followed the art of the Dark Ones. That was why for the last few thousand years no necromancer had appeared on Ulte.
He gathered all of his power and tapped into his lair’s reserves too. There was a saying that a mage on their home turf could fend off a God but the necromancer’s following sentences rushed past all of Tern’s defences and completely defeated him.
“I could destroy this region, you know? I have stationed fifty Dark Thanes, eleven Nightmare Lords and a single Plague Glutton somewhere here, so every living being of this land will either turn into an undead or go insane within a week should I wish so. Do you have the confidence to stop me before the end of the week?”
Tern only gritted his teeth and stopped. He wouldn’t dare to risk it. If it was anybody else, he would fight with all the lives on stake, but his opponent was more powerful and more experienced than him and she had prepared very well. He wasn’t confident he could stop someone who could sneak up on him in his own home.
“It must be very dear to you… Good boy, you make smart decisions!”
She seemed so cheerful despite the circumstances… Tern understood that for her, all the Northerners were no different than livestock.
“Now, let me tell you what. I could just take the whole region hostage and infest it with so many high-level undead that not even you would be able to clean them all out until it’s safe for years. I could replicate my old bloodline and create some Noble Vampires that would infiltrate all the cities and villages until a single snap of my fingers would turn the whole place into a Vampire Paradise. Do you want it to happen?”
NEVER! As if he would allow this wrench to spit on his wife’s grave! He could put up with many things, he could bear any humiliation and he could stomp his own pride to bits but his memories were a bottom line he would not allow anybody to cross! Just as his battle intent began to surge, as if toying with him, she continued speaking
“But! I will not do any of it. Aren’t I nice? Aren’t I amazing? Praise me! What I am going to do, however, is offering you a deal”
“A deal… Haaa… with you?”
Even if he felt suffocated in her presence, he still put as much mockery and distain in his voice as he could. What could she possibly offer to make him work for her?
“Now, now. It’s a very good deal, you know? Even I can only do it once on an individual and it costs me a lot too, you know?”
“I could revive somebody, anybody dear to you, no matter for how long they were gone or how they died. And before you start annoying me with your anti-necromancy views, I will make it clear, elf. It’s a perfect revival. I’m not going to raise them from the dead as a moving corpse but bring them back to life just the way they used to be”
Half-way through her speech, Tern’s mind blanked. Bringing her… back?
He collapsed on the floor because he no longer bothered to resist her pressure, the only thing on his mind being this nonsensical thought: bringing her back… Is that even possible?
The necromancer smiled. Hook line and sinker, she had made dozens of such deals and none failed. Her record will stay flawless this time too…
Lachersia and Jennifer came out of Tern’s residence.
Well, it was more like Lachersia carried Jennifer out of Tern’s residence as she slowly fed olives to Jennifer.
The heroine took a liking to olives, so much so that she didn’t even bother to talk or pretend to care about Tern or whatever business they had with him. Such childishness was also adorable, or so Lachersia concluded.
This kind of childishness didn’t seem very appropriate though, considering what they found out about Jennifer’s origins:
“Lachersia, why is that little girl pretending to be a child?”
“What do you mean?”
“Isn’t she at least twenty? Her mental age should be a bit more mature than she’s showing right now. Not that I mean to offend her or you.”
“I thought you understood human anatomy a little better than you do, Tern. She’s a child, most obviously. She should be 12 at most.”
“What do you mean, human? She’s obviously a half-elf, can’t you feel the nature’s aura on her?”
“A half-elf? What is this joke? I’ve never heard of such species”
“Hm? Oh, I guess that makes sense. There aren’t many elves in the kingdom nowadays… Did you know that around two thousand years ago-”
“Back on track, what is a half-elf?”
“A cross-breed between an elf and another species, usually humans. Isn’t it obvious from the name?”
“I know it sounds hard to believe such species exist. They are very rare as they usually appear due to many random factors as well as huge parameters for compatibility between the parents. I don’t remember much about them, I was around twenty when I studied the biology of various races.”
“At least tell me what you know about half-elves”
“Judging by her looks, her mother was a human, so she should be called a half-human instead… but this word was considered an insult back in the day, so every half is called a half-elf. Half-elves’ lifespan should be close to yours, give or take a few hundred years, and their growth curve is logarithmic. So, basically, up to five or six years, their growth is the same as a human’s in intensity but it gradually slows down as they grow older. She should look like this even after another twenty years. They possess a good talent for magic, though I’m sure you know that a racial talent for magic is as unreliable as an ordinary person’s weather forecast… They have better control of their body than a human and can survive many things an ordinary human won’t… I should’ve had a book detailing these things somewhere, give me a minute…”
This news gave Lachersia much to think about Jennifer’s past, present and future, even though the person in question didn’t seem to care at all about these things. Jennifer was just happily accepting the olives that Lachersia gave to Jennifer.
It probably wasn’t good to eat as many olives as Jennifer had but neither of them could stop. Jennifer was completely in love with the new fruit and Lachersia got to secretly enjoy the touch of Jennifer’s lips on her fingers every time she gave an olive to her.
Both were very satisfied…
I'm not making olives an annoying character trait. I just couldn't resist adding the last part.
As for Jennifer being a half-elf? Well, legal loli's rule?