As Ely and I stood entwined, staring at each other, a loud rapping on the outside of my barrier caught my attention. I turned my head to look, and saw Dyros hammering away on the outside of the barrier. I rolled my eyes and cancelled the barrier, allowing the Elders to enter the Chamber. Dyros, who had been leaning on it, stumbled forward a few steps, but managed to catch himself with surprising poise. The soldiers that had been on guard rushed into the Chamber, weapons drawn and pointed at Ely. She was more than a match for them, even unarmed, but I decided to intervene. Partly because it would have been an unnecessary fight, and partly because I wanted to show off to my older sister.

I made a show of stepping in front of Ely and materialised my weapon self in my hand, barring the soldiers from reaching her. Dyros narrowed his eyes.

“My lady. Is this it, then? Will you turn your blade on us, the people you have protected for generations?”

Dyros was looking at me with an expression that combined resignation and resolve. I knew that look. He knew he could not beat me in a fight, but depending on my answer, he was prepared to stake his life trying. Behind him, Drinul was on the ground, sobbing openly. The picture of the man who had once been known as the strongest of our forces crying like that was a sorry sight. Age had certainly dulled his fangs. I shook my head and sighed.

“Don’t be so dramatic, Dyros. I have no intention of fighting you.”

“You may not, but what of your Owner?”

Drinul let out another sob. Dyros was taking the change in situation a lot better than Drinul was. It was a shame that he had chosen not to join the Council. It could have used someone with his mental fortitude. He had made an accurate assessment of the situation.

The people of Kirtvel knew of my circumstances and my search for an Owner – it was actually a common occurrance for overzealous children to sneak into my house and try to take hold of me. Needless to say, none succeeded. Every child that tried it had it beaten into them that my house was not the grounds for some trifling dare. In any case, my story was well-known enough that the implications of me accepting someone else as my Owner could not have gone unnoticed. My will no longer mattered. I would do whatever my Owner wished of me. What I felt about it was of no consequence. I inclined my head and responded to Dyros’ query.

“What my Owner’s intentions are, huh… I don’t know. Let’s ask her. What do you say, Owner?”

Ely’s eyebrow noticeably twitched when I referred to her as such, but I did not apologise, instead choosing to smile at her. It was our new reality. She had to accept it, whether she liked it or not. She ignored my teasing and answered Dyros’ question.

“I have no intention of harming your city in any way. My request remains the same as when you first brought me to this hall: I wish for asylum.”

Dyros’ eyes hardened. He looked at the Elders – they were mumbling among each other, unable to come to a decision. He coughed and glared at them, until all the Elders were looking at him.

“Elders. Pardon my presumption, but as you seem unable to come to a decision immediately, allow me to represent our city. I will take full responsibility for whatever happens as a result.”

The mojority of the Elders sighed and nodded thankfully, absolved from responsibility. It made me want to vomit. I knew that they were ineffectual, but I had never seen their incompetence so clearly displayed as I did on this occasion. That said, not all of them were so cowardly. A select minority seemed discontent with the proposed representation. They said nothing, but that was likely because they were aware that their opinions would be vetoed by the majority. I took note of them, wondering whether it was time for a reorganisation of the government.

Having attained the approval of the rulers of the city, Dyros returned his attention to Ely and spoke with a controlled, firm voice.

“Know that I am fully aware of the power you now wield. Our positions now are drastically different. If you wished, you could destroy this city in a day. Even so, I cannot in good conscience offer you asylum without hearing your circumstances – as well as the story of how my sister’s ring came to be in your possession. Perhaps this will cause you to destroy our city, but if your circumstances bring danger to Kirtvel, then my allowing you our protection would be no different from destroying the city with my own hands. So our disagreement remains unresolved. If you truly wish for our protection, I will require you to state your circumstances. I promise you, upon my honour, that I will listen to them fairly, and will only consider them on the basis of whether or not they would result in harm coming to this city. I promise to be as impartial as I can.”

Ely looked at him for a while, then laughed. When she next spoke, she addressed me instead of Dyros.

“I like this guy. Eury, you’ve found some good company. Is he a friend of yours?”

I smiled wryly.

“I don’t know about that. I mean, we’re definitely on friendly terms, but if you ask me, he feels more like a playful nephew or something. I did watch him grow up, after all. He used to be a real handful, I assure you.”

“You’re starting to sound like a nostalgic old lady, you know.”

“I am several hundred years old at this point, after all. But can we get back to the topic at hand?”

With the conversation somehow turning to a discussion of my age, I decided to refocus it so that we could stop leaving Dyros hanging. Of course, a part of it was also due to my discomfort at having my age pointed out. Even though I was an eternally youthful weapon of war, discussing my age was still something I preferred not to do. Ely, who undoubtedly was aware of my intention, nonetheless chuckled and responded to Dyros.

“Very well. If you promise you’ll be impartial, then I am willing – begrudgingly – to speak of my circumstances first. Do know, however, that if my request is denied, I will be taking Eury here with me when I leave.”

Ely spoke the last sentence while gesturing at me. The Elders began murmuring amongst themselves again, clearly distraught. Presumably, they were worried that the city would perish without my protection. I felt like it was an unnecessary worry. Kirtvel’s army was strong enough to fend off any invaders, especially when one took into account the citizens’ familiarity with the difficult forest terrain. Furthermore, even if I wasn’t physically here, it didn’t mean that my barrier would vanish – I could maintain the barrier without staying within it. Both these facts were known to the Elders, but even so they seemed terrified at the prospect of my leaving. It allowed me to reconfirm one fact: Kirtvel had grown too dependent on me. They had grown complacent at the fact that the city enjoyed the protection of a legendary weapon. All things considered, perhaps it would be for the best if I left this place with Ely. It would be difficult for these people to develop as long as they were so dependent on me.

Dyros silenced the chattering Elders with a glare, then responded to Ely.

“Very well. I shall keep that in mind.”

“Alright then. You wanted me to explain two things, yes? The reason why I’m seeking asylum, and the reason why I hve Serena Faircleave’s ring, yes?”

“That is correct.”

“Well then, the first happens to lead nicely into the second, so let’s start there, shall we?”

And so, she began to tell her story.