There was nothing that indicated that anything was wrong as Eva and Leirus approached the table for breakfast. Sure, it was unusual that their parents weren’t there yet as they were usually early risers, but perhaps they had a long day yesterday. Fifteen minutes later, their parents still hadn’t emerged, and Leirus decided to go get them.

He came back to the dining hall panting, opening up his clenched fist to show Eva what he held within. It was a small metallic silver hand encircled with a band, with a sparkling diamond set on the second finger. The circular object fit just nicely within Leirus’s palm. Eva paled.

“They must have dad and mum. I found this on their bed without any sign of struggle,” Leirus told his sister, closing his fist around the metal again as Eva scraped her chair back.

“Rena!” Eva yelled. “Rena!”

Verena Gyr was the Volo family’s chief guard, and had been even before Eva was born. She was the only person the Volo family trusted with their lives, apart from each other.

Rena appeared between the doors of the dining hall in an instant, confusion evident by a slight frown creasing her face. Eva yanked Leirus’s hand forward as he opened it, showing Rena the symbol. A look of shock passed over her features, replaced immediately with grim understanding and determination.

“Eva, weapons; Leirus, food. As much as you can. Some water as well. Be back in ten minutes,” Rena commanded as she turned on her heel.

Eva and Leirus followed, and together the three of them walked through the doors of the dining hall, where they separated to complete their own tasks. The Volo children were back before ten minutes, and Eva had Leirus carry a few weapons of his choice as they waited for Rena. Rena returned shortly after them, and was carrying a bulging rucksack, which she explained was full of travel necessities, including a (foldable) map, a tent and a few coats and blankets. She deposited the rucksack at Eva’s feet and straightened up, handing Eva a small but heavy metal box.

“You know what to do. We knew there was no definite way of keeping them out forever. Bring your parents home. I will stay here and protect your home with my life.”

Eva nodded. “It is your home as much as it is ours. You have our eternal gratitude.”

Rena bowed slightly to Eva and Leirus, turned and left. That was when Eva uncovered the box, which featured an image of a ring surrounding a pair of wings with a line of stars running down the connecting point of the wings stamped onto the lid. It was the Volo family crest. Inside the box were two flat, pale gold ribbons a centimetre in width. Eva took the ribbons out and set the now empty box onto the dining table.

Eva handed one of the ribbons to Leirus, and she looped the other around her left wrist. Leirus followed suit. As soon as their right hands released the ribbon, it glowed and moved of its own accord; the two ends slithered in opposite directions to tighten over their forearms and turned into solid metal, forming golden cuffs. They felt it then; a bond that would allow them to draw on each other’s energy, multiplying their strength.

Eva and Leirus hoisted their rucksacks and supplies onto their shoulders and exited the dining hall. They were already conveniently in black boots and flexible fighting attire, as physical training followed after breakfast on a normal day. They walked down the stairs from the dining hall, and pushed open the main doors, ready to retrieve their parents.

However, they had barely gone twenty steps from the doors before they encountered their first obstacle. A sleek panther with diamonds for eyes had leaped soundlessly from one of the trees and blocked their way, mouth curled into a feral grin.


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