Paultin, Evelyn, and Simon were sat in a clearing surrounded by trees with a fire going when the snow started to fall around them. They had decided to go off on a short family trip without Strix and Diath. They took a wagon, a couple horses, and enough supplies to last them a month. They didn't plan to be gone that long, but knowing their luck they didn't want to risk it,
especially not with Simon since he was now a human kid and not a construct.
The small family hadn’t seen a cloud all day, so the snow was sudden and unexpected, as well as the temperature drop that accompanied it. Simon scooted closer to Evelyn, pulling her cloak around himself as he watched the snow fall.
Evelyn and Paultin shared a look before Paultin got up. “I’m going to take a look around and see if something is causing this,” he said more for Simon’s sake since Evelyn probably would have understood why he was going off. Simon started to get up but Evelyn gently put an arm around him. “Stay with your mom and keep her safe. Okay, Simon?” Paultin said in an attempt to get Simon to stay behind.
And Simon did seem like he was about to protest, but looked to Evelyn then back to Paultin. “Okay, papa.”
With the confirmation that Simon was going to stay with Evelyn, Paultin grabbed his lute and started off into the snow. He tried his best to stay quiet as he walked around trying to find the source. He knew what caused snow like this but he really hoped it wasn’t that.
As he rounded a tree, he froze in place. He stood there staring. It was like he was staring into a warped mirror. But there couldn't be a mirror, they were in the forest. This mirror didn’t make him look short and squat or tall and lanky. No. This reflection had him looking at himself, but with glowing blue eyes, blue-ish skin, and stark black long hair, almost darker than his current hair. What was worse, was this reflection had the Ring of Winter. This had to be some kind of spell. He took a step back and reached up to rub his eyes, hoping that would make the image go away. But when he opened them again, his twisted reflection was still there, staring at him in confusion.
Slowly Paultin started to back away from the person before him. “Evelyn!” he shouted, glancing back over his shoulder at the camp before back at the wintery version of himself in front of him. He was startled to see an icey hand appear before him and attempt to grab him. He quickly ducked out of the way and started running back to where he left Evelyn and Simon.
Evelyn stood up and started to fly over to him when she saw him break through the tree line, “Paulti-”
“Simon go hide. Now,” Paultin said as he pushed past Evelyn and went straight to their son. “Please.” Simon couldn’t even respond before Paultin had turned back to Evelyn. “We have a problem,” he said as he looked past her to where he came from. “The Ring is back, and I uh, I have it?”
“You... have it?” Evelyn questioned, looking at him a bit confused, a frown forming on her face, “Paultin…”
“No. I don’t have it. Another-” Paultin was about to explain what he saw when the version of himself with the Ring came into view. “He has it.”
“Well isn't this delightful. It’s been quite some time since I’ve seen you, Evie,” the other Paultin purred, a grin forming on his face. “Did this imposter figure out how to free you from the ice?” He looked her up and down as he stepped closer, “And you’re human again, isn't that nice.”
Evelyn quickly pulled out the Heart of Spinelli, igniting it, when he took a step closer. Paultin’s hand rested on the Sunsword’s handle as he backed away from, well, from himself.
“H-how are there two of you?” she asked, turning to her Paultin but keeping her gaze on the other.
“I don't know, maybe it has to do with alternate universes or whatever,” he said as he held the hilt of the sword up when the other Paultin took another step forward.
“Blah blah blah, if all you two are going to do is chatter, then don't waste my time,” he said as he held up his hand, a cone of cold air coming from it. Both tried to duck out of the way but still got hit.
Paultin shivered as a chill ran up his spine. Is this what it felt like to fight him last time? Not that the others had to fight themselves. Paultin was about to charge at his double when he noticed a flash of red out of the corner of his eye.
The other Paultin must have noticed it too because he stopped in the middle of casting a spell. “Simon?” he whispered out, just barely audible to the others in the clearing. Simon stared over the crate that sat by the wagon, half open from when the group retrieved their supplies earlier. He looked back between Evelyn and the two Paultins, confusion on his face.
“Stay away from my son!” Evelyn shouted as she made a beeline for the other Paultin, the Heart of Spinelli raised and ready to strike. When she was just less than ten feet away, a wall of ice appeared before her and she couldn't slow down enough to not run right into it. She was however able to turn so she shouldered it.
Shit. Paultin ran over to Evelyn and started to swing at the wall of the dome that had appeared. “Simon! Try to get away from him! That's not me!” he shouted at the wall as he tried to work at breaking through it.
His voice was just barely audible through the ice, but both creatures within its walls were able to hear him.
Simon was about to duck behind the crate to try and hide, but Paultin was quicker and grabbed him by the collar of the cloak wrapped around him. “Simon, where are you going?” Paultin asked, almost sounding hurt. He pulled Simon out from behind the crate and hugged him. “Where have you been? I've missed you. I can never get the ice constructs to be like you. Do you know how hard it is to get them right?”
Simon squirmed in the other Paultin’s grip. His limbs started to go numb due to the cold radiating off of Paultin. “Papa! Mama!” Simon shouted as he tried to push Paultin away.
“Evelyn’s gone, you don't need her,” Paultin said as he reluctantly let go of Simon but held on to his arms. Simon was trying to tense his jaw so his teeth wouldn't chatter.
A frown formed on Paultin’s face, “They made you human too. Made you weak and frail.” He seemed to think for a moment, keeping his grip on Simon tight so he couldn't run. “I can fix that. I can make you a construct again,” he said, his smile returning.
As soon as Paultin whispered out a spell, Simon went rigid, a last shout for Evelyn and Paultin leaving his lips. His eyes flicked around frantically as tears started to form in his eyes. “Don't worry, I know it hurts but it'll be over soon and you’ll be a construct again,” Paultin reassured, gently brushing Simon’s hair back with his fingers, “then you won't be cold in my domain.”
The ice wall had fallen away when Paultin broke his concentration on the spell to focus on the flesh to ice spell. He stood up and pulled out the hilt of his Sunsword, turning just in time to catch Paultin’s. Having his sword locked with the other Paultin’s kept him from being able to block Evelyn’s attack.
The other Paultin tried to cast Thunderwave on Evelyn, but she held fast, only flinching at the burst of force and sound. Paultin stepped away so Evelyn had plenty of space to swing wide. She aimed for his chest, putting as much force into it as she could. “Leave. Us. Alone,” she shouted with each swing.
Paultin would have tried to get the Ring off his double, but he didn't want to risk touching it and letting it take control of him. He just kind of stood back and watched in silent horror as Evelyn slashed up what at one point could have been him.
He was snapped out of his trance like state when he heard a whimper come from the wagon. When he glanced over he saw Simon still standing frozen, ice creeping up his hands, his eyes fixed on Evelyn and the other Paultin. Deciding Evelyn had a handle on it—she looked fine, whereas the other Paultin didn't—he rushed over to Simon, stepping between him and the other two to block his view.
“Hey bud,” he said softly, his voice shaking a bit, “Evelyn and I have got this. You just need to hold on a bit longer.”
Simon couldn't verbally respond because of the spell, but he glanced to the side of Paultin the back at him in the hopes that he'd recognize that he understood.
And he did.
Paultin pulled Simon’s rigid body close and just quietly held him, listening for if Evelyn needed any help.
It wasn't long before Simon went limp, collapsing into Paultin’s arms. He let out a sob, frantically moving to wrap his around Paultin. Paultin was about to look back to see if Evelyn was okay, only to be stopped by her flying over to him and resting her hand on his shoulder.
He looked up at her as she started to speak, “We should pack up and get going.” The normal brightness to her voice was missing and when he looked at her eyes, he could see faint tears.
Paultin hesitated for a moment. He was about to look back at the other Paultin, when Evelyn flew between him and the other. “We should get the ring so n-”
He was cut off by her holding out her other hand which had a cloth clenched in it. “We should take this to get destroyed,” she said as she put it into one of the pockets hidden in her dress. She leaned over and pressed a kiss to his forehead before whispering, “Get Simon in the wagon. I'll pack up and be with you in a second.” She turned her attention to Simon and pressed a kiss to his head before brushing his hair back. “I need you to get in the wagon and wait with your daddy, can you do that Simon?” she asked him.
He looked up to her and nodded before looking back at Paultin. He got up and stepped away from them. “You wouldn't turn me back into a construct, right?” Simon asked softly, looking between the two.
Evelyn made sure she constantly blocked Simon’s view of the other Paultin. “We wouldn’t do it if you didn't want us to,” she said, pressing another kiss to his head, “Promise.”
Simon nodded and mumbled an “okay” before he gave her a hug and turned back to Paultin. He looked at Paultin’s hand for a moment before taking it and following him over to the wagon. Paultin made sure Simon didn’t look at where the other Paultin had been, helping him up into the back of the wagon.
Before getting into the wagon, he couldn’t help but glance at Evelyn. He ended up seeing the corpse of his double laying the blood soaked snow behind her. Quickly he averted his gaze, but the image was still imprinted in his mind. He felt like he was about to be sick, but he just shook it off and got into the cart.
Seeing yourself dead, talk about nightmare fuel.
Evelyn flew over with the small crate of supplies and handed it off to Paultin. “We should head back to get Strix and Diath first,” Evelyn said as she stood in the wagon’s doorway. And we should probably leave Simon behind so he doesn’t get hurt , was implied but never spoken.
Paultin nodded, letting out a soft “Yeah”. Simon wrapped his arms around Paultin, curling up on the bench, and in response, Paultin wrapped his arm around his son.
Evelyn smiled weakly at the two. She flew over to give them both a kiss before leaving to take her seat in the front guiding the horses home.