The Brothers of Yavimaya
was the most tolerable to Stangg when it was devoid of other voices. Pushing his way through the brambles of plants that had overtaken the area, the former warrior listened to the silence that was only interrupted by the breaking of twigs underfoot and thorns scraping against his breastplate. While he was no scholar of them, he'd encountered the terrible beasts many times that lurked in the Yavimaya. To traverse the woods safely was a ritual itself. Layers of protections, both physical and spiritual, had to be prepared ahead of time. Luckily, he'd made the trek during an important Yavimayan festival. Any creature that wished him harm was almost certainly enraptured by within the forest.
It was odd to explore the same forest he had visited so many years ago. In their early years, he and his brother played a game in these forests. , they called it. In essence, it wasn't dissimilar to a game of chicken. Deep within the lied an archdruid's tomb. One of the brothers would take a step forward, daring the other to do the same. They'd repeat this process back and forth until they were so close they could reach out and touch the grave. That is, if they weren't to do so.
In his reminiscing, Stangg failed to notice a root sticking up from the ground. Just short enough to go undetected, yet tall enough to send his hulking body tumbling to the ground in a heap of metal. His clamored to the ground. Stangg gave himself time to collect his breath before going to stand. In this time, however, he'd left just enough time for his attacker to approach. An elven man, dressed in Argivian fatigues. Green still coalescing through his hand, he coaxed the root back into the ground.
"Don't worry, friend. I'm not gonna hurt you. All I want is the coin in your and for you to turn back to the way you came from."
"Haven't got any," he mumbled, slowly standing to his feet. "Can't help you. Sorry."
"How about that fancy sword you've got with you? You've got two of 'em', why don't I take one ?"
Stangg's eyes lit up with a flash. The sigils he'd prepared for this moment began to glow, Yavimaya's deep leylines of green and red mana flowing up through his legs and into his arms. With a flourish, the two swords seemed to unfold from his body. To the untrained eye they look more like extensions of his limbs. But to Stangg, this was simply his personal fighting style. The elven man conjured a shield of to deflect the strikes. As it turned out, Stangg was quite proficient in the art of hedge clipping. As he moved to tackle the elf to the ground, his foe let loose a wave of fiery from his fingertips. The heat bent around the warrior's armor, but set some of the nearby flora ablaze. His druidic training in pyromancy had made him adept in avoiding flames, but not controlling them. Stangg briefly considering putting out the fire, then quieted the idea as he shoved past the flames and towards the druid. With his first swing, he lopped off the elf's right hand, causing the roots around him to rot and fall to dust. Holding the second blade to his throat, he spoke through .
"I can fix the hand. If you leave these woods, that's all I'll need to ." The man nodded profusely, tearing off an armband to wrap around his bleeding wound. The band was a , with the sigil of some sort of animal on it. He squinted harder and the grip on his hilt tightened. A wolf's face. Stangg knew these thieves. Even more, he knew what he planned to do if he ever encountered one again. He raised the swords above his head and prepared to begin to claim justice.
"Stangg!" A voice said from deep within the woods. He felt . Green runes formed around his , pulling his arms behind his back. His foe kicked his legs as he scooted away, pushing himself up and breaking into a sprint deep into the woods. Stangg struggled against his restraints and attempted to reach for his side dagger to cut himself free, though deep down he knew even a blade couldn't break through this magic. He recognized it, something deeply familiar. Hauntingly so. The elder druid, Von Yomm, had intercepted his arrival.
He and his brother assured that they would be back before sundown from their day playing in the woods. She wanted Stangg back in time for his red mana training, but she thought he'd likely play hooky, a reasonable assumption. Rushing through the trees, the twins swung from branch to branch, their feet callus from the thorny forest floor.
"Last one to Gamelen's Tomb is a !" His brother shouted as he pulled ahead of him. Having none of that, Stangg broke into a sprint and tried to shove past his brother. In their play-fighting, the two ran into a group of soldiers who seemed to be patrolling the nearby woods. Eyeing the two boys, the soldiers claimed to be emissaries from Argive. The , part of a new traveling from the nearby nation that wished to map out the Yavimayan forests.
"Does that mean you've been to Gamelen's Tomb?" said Stangg. The leader, a rail-thin human man, shook his head. He asked where one might find that, as they'd certainly like to mark it on their map for their fellow Argivians. Best to avoid a dangerous crypt like that. The boys led the soldiers through the trees and to the tomb, stopping where their games of Dryad Dance usually began.
"It's trapped. Gamelan sends her spirits to ."
"She's scary." said Stangg, still put off by the soldiers. "My teacher says they and their friends met her once, and she was really ."
The thin man thought on this for a second, whispering to a handful of his colleagues about the tomb, before turning to the boys. In a slick voice, he spoke calmly and with such simple words. One of the boys would open the crypt for them, and their band of mercenaries would from the spirits. The twins looked at each other and giggled. One of them (Stangg could not remember who now) offered to play rock-paper-scissors to decide who would do it. The other agreed. Replaying the moment in his mind, Stangg wondered what if he'd chosen differently. Stangg threw rock. His brother, scissors.
Back in the forest as he buckled against his restraints, his new attacker approached him slowly from behind. She released him from the seals as he turned to face her.
"Still as angry as ever, Stangg," said Von Yomm, the decades since he left having taken a toll on her. She leaned against a gnarlroot cane, and her normally dark black afro was now a . Von Yomm stepped in to embrace Stangg, her frail arms unable to wrap around the warrior's bulky armor. With all the grace of a Jamuran elephant, he attempted to reciprocate the gesture without crushing the . "Now come, the tea is already on the kettle."
Back in , Stangg waited patiently as he prepared a tray of snacks from nearby foraged foods. The woman she'd introduced as her wife, , sat awkwardly across from her, silent as the warrior loomed above her.
"So, Von tells me so much about you. You were quite the go-getter as a child, I hear," she said. "She always said raising you two was like having kids of her own."
Stangg winced at her words. How could he explain to her how much that very sentiment hurt? "We appreciated having someone to care for us. Not many would for a set of twin orphans."
"Well, I'm sure you were rambunctious as a . Did you give her hell for me?" she chuckled.
"I wasn't here ." he said. "Ran away when I was nine."
"It's okay now. Mostly."
A dark silence fell over the room as the two sat in discomfort. Kolbjorn cleared her throat and announced to nobody in particular that she would go help with the . Sipping his drink, Stangg wandered about the living room. When he had last seen it as a child, it was sparsely decorated save for some tomes on relationship. Now, it was nearly overflowing with trinkets and knick-knacks. Portraits of her with other members of the village, gifts from the young ones strewn about the table. Near the door there was a small glass box that sat beneath a hanging plant. He stepped over to it, glancing down at its contents. A small scrap of green cloth from a young one's shirt laid onto a velvet backing. He recognized who it belonged to immediately.
"He was a ," said Von Yomm, appearing behind him. "Had a pretty great brother too."
"Not good enough, apparently. Not good enough to save him," said Stangg. "I should be leaving anyways. Yomm, thank you for the tea but I have to handle." Stangg collected his belongings and headed for the door.
"I have some wolves I need to
Von Yomm shook her head. "Do whatever business you're going to do, but be a gentleman. If you're going to leave without eating any of , then at least let me show you something." She gestured to the nearby . "There's something you should see."
Stangg looked down at the . His brother's name inscribed on it, chiseled in by what looked to be unsteady hands. All manner of items surrounded it, from toys they had played with to writings from school. Stangg wrung his hands in an attempt to keep composure. Von Yomm watched him take in the scenery. Stangg wished he could have been there when it was built, instead of running away at his brother's death like a coward.
"When he released the spirits and those thieves fled with the treasures, I knew I should have done something," Stangg said. "But I didn't. I ran. And Gamelen, Gamelan . And now he's gone forever."
Stangg remembered the feeling of seeing the on that man in the woods. He had burned out the faces of the thieves in his memories, allowing him to imagine that man as the one that took his brother from him. from sick, twisted men such as Greenwolves kept him sane.
"You were a child, Stangg. Barely old enough to hold a weapon!" Von Yomm shouted. "If you spend your life commiserating, you miss what is here now."
"Don't you get it? I took him from you. He was the light of our village. And because I was weak, my brother is gone."
"Does it look like your brother has ?" She gestured to the tomb. "And I know he is still with you. You carry him with you."
Stangg held his weapons out to Von Yomm. He had indeed carried a piece of his brother with him in his absence. The blades were supposed to be given when they reached adulthood. He had stolen them when he left as keepsake of his home in Yavimaya. The weapon of his own and his brother had slayed many an evil soul. But never enough for Stangg to repent.
"Oh, gods. I'm being literal, Stangg. You never did well with figures of speech." Von Yomm chuckled. "Gamelen is the ."
Stangg stared at her confused. He felt the weight of his brother's sword in his hands.
"When you were in the forest, you harnessed red and green mana. When I knew you, you only harnessed ."
Stangg remembered the feeling of green mana surging through him. His body moved on his own in alignment with the mana. He placed his brother's weapon against the tomb. In an instant he saw the forest glow bright with tendrils of arboreal energy, moss spreading across the lettering which had been inscribed, his deceased brother's name. The blade's hilt seemed to pulse with a heartbeat of its own. Each thud seemed to beckon a force from within his brother's sword. A force which, as he felt the vibrant green mana course through him, he knew to be of his blood.
"Your memory and our perceptions of him are bound to the weapon. His echo, bouncing off the walls of silver steel." said Von Yomm.
Stangg held tightly to the blade, afraid it would break into shards if he let his concentration wane. "He'll . If I bring him back, he'll hate me for being weak. For being a coward who let him die at that ."
"He is your brother, Stangg! He will love you as we all have."
Stangg breathed in. Felt the reflections of his brother, as he knew him in life, spread from his mind into the blade. His grip loosened and the sword exploded into shards of energy, floating there in what seemed to be frozen time. The warrior watched as appeared like stitches between the broken shards. The magic bloomed outwards into the space above the grave, first abstract in its shape, then resolving into a humanoid form. One just as as Stangg. Color filled the form like ink from a brush. There stood a man that he had never seen, yet recognized. His twin brother, if he had been able to live as long as Stangg. The brothers watched each other, neither sure which should make the first movement. Then, Stangg stepped forward.
The brothers took turns moving forward towards each other. Tears began to stream down Stangg's face. Soon they were only a few paces away from one another. Breaking the pattern, Stangg rushed into his brother's arms. Silent, the echo embraced his brother into a hug. Stangg knew whatever he had conjured could not offer him absolution for what had happened. Yet now, he felt as though he could. For now, he would make up for the lost years. The brothers embraced each other for the , and all was calm in Yavimaya.