Chapter 7:

The Calm Before the Storm

ZAUBER: the thread that binds us

Paltar's feet hurt. They had been walking through the forest for so long that he had forgotten how it felt to travel without pain. There was no mountain in sight, and they had met no one to ask for directions. How would they ask for a glittering mountain anyway? He sighed.

"Come on, stop daydreaming," Nanna said, bumping into his knee. "We have to go."

"I know," he replied, "but I'm tired."

"And? So am I. Do you hear me complaining?"

He squinted at her.

"Do you really want to compare our complaints throughout the day?"

"All the time," he shot back.

She must have forgotten all the times they had stopped to let her rest, and the times that she had flown up to sit on his shoulder while he still had to walk.

"You-" She didn't finish the sentence. Instead, she cleared her throat. "So, how about we rest somewhere nice, like a nice, big tree, or another inn, or.."

"I mean, a 'nice tree' is enough for me." Paltar pointed straight ahead. "There."

The tall oak tree must have been old, standing there for more than a century. Its branches were gnarled, and the trunk was thicker than five strong men lined up. At the same time, the tree radiated an aura of peace and safety, as the wind played a soft melody with its leaves.

"That's good enough, I guess," Nanna said. "But it's not a real bed."

Paltar laughed.

"When was the last time you slept in a proper bed?" he asked.

"Not answering that!"

She fluttered, and flew into the air. He watched as she landed on one of the tree’s large roots, before making his way over, step by step. His muscles screamed with every movement, and his feet ached as if he were walking on lava. There was a faint pang of hunger in his stomach, but he ignored it as best as he could. During their travels today, they had already eaten most of their packed lunch, and if they didn't find another inn, he feared there would be nothing left for dinner. On top of it all, his right shoulder hurt from carrying his bag, and he couldn't even ask Nanna to share the load. Instead, he only had her words—more or less encouraging—to keep him going.

By now, he even doubted if he had enough energy left to reach the tree. The shade it provided was nice enough, and Paltar closed his eyes as he leaned against its trunk. He just needed to rest for a moment.

"Perfect," he sighed as he slowly slid down to the ground.

"Just a short break, right?" Nanna said somewhere above him. "We need to..."

"Yeah."He yawned. "Sure."

"Hey! At least, let me finish..."


He put down his bag and shifted around until he was comfortable. There was nothing he wanted more right now than to sit here and rest. The wind ruffled his hair, and the air felt warm against his skin. It was compeltely peaceful.

"I'm a princess," Nanan shouted," and you should treat me like one!"

Paltar didn't reply to that, and that seemed to annoy her even more.

"Hey, I was talking to you!"

With those words, he could hear her flutter, before she landed right on his stomach. The sudden weight made him flinch.

"What's this about?" he grumbled.

"You can't just ignore me," she said, "and we haven't even talked about our route yet, and..."

"I'm trying to rest."

"But that doesn't mean..."


He didn't want to argue with her. Instead, he opened his arms, and caught her in something like a hug.

"There. Attention. Now let me rest."

"W-what are you doing? I'm a princess! This is..."

She didn't say anything else, and soon after, she stopped trying to break free from his grasp. Paltar sighed.

Finally, peace.

And he enjoyed every second of it. Her feathers didn’t tickle him, but brushed softly against his skin. He could feel her breathing, the rise and fall of her chest matching his own. Above them, some insects were buzzing. He opened his eyes just a little to see the warm sunlight painting golden patterns on her blue dress. But his eyelids were heavy, and soon, he didn't have the strength to open them again. Soon, his soul was filled with a pleasant warmth that made him smile and hum.

He couldn't remember when the last time was that he had felt so content. His breathing, matching Nanna's, filled his ears as he drifted into a honey-colored slumber, still smiling. She liked his dress... it was truly a dream come true for him. A magical encounter. Even here, where he could read the fate of the people and their life threads, it still felt unreal.

That gave him an idea. He jerked awake and blinked.

"Huh?" Nanna flinched, and it was clear that she had fallen asleep, just like him. "Let me go!"

He stared at her. Slowly, she tilted her head back.

"Um, Paltar? Is something wrong?" she asked.

"I have an idea," he said.

The threads. Her threads.

If they couldn't find someone to ask about the glittering mountain... why not try to asking the threads instead?

He focused on her threads. It took him a few moments before he could see them all—some of them a light blue, others white or green, and even a few yellow and orange. But they weren't what he was looking for. Among the prominent ones, there was one in particular that he was looking for. After all, she had been cursed by some kind of wizard, and he had an idea what their connection might look like. Why shouldn't they use it to find the wizard faster? He blinked, and then, he found it. Just as he had seen it the first time, the thread was as fine as spider silk, but it gave off an icy glow even in the golden afternoon sunlight. Slowly, he reached for it.

"What are you doing?" Nanna tilted her head.

"I have to concentrate," he replied.

His hand hovered in the air for a moment. He took a deep breath. He could see the thread just fine, dancing before his eyes. Now or never. He grabbed it, and pulled


Nanna sounded both angry and confused.

"Hey, what did you do? Is that magic? Does this have something to do with your threads?"

"I... I'm not sure," he said."I just tried to see if I could..."

He let go of the thread, and Nanna visibly relaxed. The thread vanished from his hand, but he still could feel the phantom sensation of it becoming taut in his hand.

"What have you done, Paltar?" she hissed. "Don't do something like that without asking first! That hurt!"

"I-I'm sorry," he said. "It was just... I thought..."

"No, you didn't think!"

Nanna was clearly warming up to chew him out, and rightly so. Paltar's head was spinning. What should he say? He didn't know, and so he just shrank under her gaze.

"We're supposed to trust each other," she shouted. "How-"

She stopped.

The golden sunlight vanished in an instant. Instead, dark storm clouds brewed above them as a cold gust of wind rustled through the leaves. There were no birds or insects to be heard.

"That's not good," Nanna whispered. "Paltar, what have you done?"

"I don't know!" He began to panic. "I just tugged on the thread, and..."

Lightning tore through the sky, illuminating a dark figure floating toward them.

"Well, well, well," the man drawled, "Who summoned me?"

Nika Zimt