"How can two weaklings have become Kings?" Lith was confused. Protector had always been the strongest among the four, but not by much.
"We are not like humans. A King is simply the most powerful beast in the area. The new Kings are simply too young. Those of my generations have all died, either of old age or by challenging my authority." Reaper explained.
"Replacing a single King is not an easy feat. Two is impossible."
'Solus?' Lith asked.
'I am not sure we can help them. Reaper is not as strong as Phillard was when he got here. There are still too many things we don't understand.'
"I'm sorry Reaper. I could do it, but it would take time and a considerable amount of risk. I spent over six months to Awaken him through painstaking efforts…"
"Mostly mine." Phillard snarled. "Especially the pain part."
"If you wanted a walk in the park, you were free to go anytime." Lith replied. "Without my teachings and experiments, you would still be waiting for death. Bottom line, Reaper, what you are asking from me is impossible.
"I don't have the time to teach you and Lifebringer, let alone focus on even weaker beasts. Even if I did, there are no guarantees of success. You could die, or worse. You could turn into an Abomination and I'd be forced to put you down. Unless…" Lith looked at Phillard with renewed interest.
"Seems you guys are lucky. He needs a place to live until he learns dimensional magic." Lith pointed at the Lindwurm.
"While the Kings need someone capable to give them a hand and teach them the basics. You are a match made in heaven."
"You are asking quite a lot from me and offering nothing in return." Phillard snorted.
"I can survive on my own, why should I waste my time with him?"
"Do you still want your new axes?" Lith asked with a wolfish smile. "Time to make a new deal. I'll give you what you want in exchange for your help."
"Make them enchanted, then." The Lindwurm raised the stakes. Teaching was like thinking, something he hated doing.
"Deal." Lith instantly replied catching both the creatures by surprise.
'What a sucker!' Phillard inwardly gloated. 'He didn't even try to bargain.'
'We have gravely misjudged him.' Reaper was deeply moved by Lith's altruism.
'He truly deserves the trust and the title of "crownless King" Protector gave him.'
Lith had always refused to rule over the west area of the Trawn woods. He would help the Kings to deal with threats like Abominations or crazed beasts, only to disappear whenever a crisis was resolved. Hence Protector's moniker.
'What a moron.' Lith inwardly grinned while shaking the Lindwurm's hand and sealing the deal. 'He asked for enchanted weapons, not for good ones. He is in for a nasty surprise.'
"As for you guys, I need something in return." Lith turned toward Reaper.
"Name it and it will be done. I swear it on my pack." Reaper's reply stunned Lith for a second. According to Protector, it was the most sacred oath a magical beast could take.
"Soon I'll go away. My cubs will be left unprotected and I don't trust humans. I want from those of you who will survive the treatment to guard my pack, no matter how long will it take. Protect all those who carry my blood."
"If they truly carried your blood, they wouldn't need any protection." Reaper grinned, crouching on his front paws giving Lith a small bow.
"I'll make sure everyone understands it's a gamble. I'll introduce to you only those who are willing to take my same oath. When are you going to leave?"
"Soon." Lith replied.
Trawn Woods, after Lith's left for the academy
Reaper and Phillard were visiting one tribe after the other, searching for volunteers.
Power and longevity were a powerful siren, especially for those aware of their life span coming to an end. They were among the smartest beasts of the woods, but also those Reaper trusted very little.
Wisdom and mastery of magic weren't the only thing a magical beast could develop over time. Despite their affinity with Mogar, they could become greedy for life. They would despise the humans, so weak and magically inept, yet blessed with a long life.
"I don't get it." Phillard said.
"How can a weakling like you be the King of anything? Boss Scarlett can pummel you with just a swing of her tail. Heck, maybe even I can."
"How many times do I have to tell you?" Reaper sighed.
"The woods have a density of magical energy much lower than your forest. It has no will of its own. Kings have no special relationship with the woods nor share part of its power. Our duty is to protect the balance of the woods, hoping that one day it will awaken."
"Wow, sounds really boring. No wonder Protector left this place. Maybe if we manage to Awaken a lot of you guys, things may even become interesting." Phillard scoffed.
"Are you even listening to yourself? Your idea is simply terrible. Either a lot of us will die, further weakening the woods, or if too many Awaken at once it could result in a war for the territory.
"We can't pick candidates at random, but only those strong enough to survive the process and trustworthy enough to be entrusted with such power."
The more time they spent together, the more Reaper felt ashamed at the idea that a blockhead like Phillard had managed to Awaken while he and Lifebringer were still stuck as magical beasts.
"Whatever. I know that your house, your rules, but I think you are being very rude."
"What are you talking about?" Reaper was on the verge of a nervous breakdown.
"I've always been polite to you, even when you didn't deserve it!"
"Woah! First, chill. Second, I wasn't talking about me. It's just that I can't understand why after wasting our time with all those small fries you are purposely ignoring a big tribe of trolls." Phillard pointed one of his huge fingers towards the north.
"They are very strong. Boss Scarlett usually has to wipe them out fast before they swarm the forest. I'm really impressed by your ability to tame such fierce creatures."
If it wasn't for his brown fur, Reaper would have turned pale.