The sun was warm against the morning air. Kiaran sat in the cave’s entrance while Lirra lay next to her. She watched the sky as white clouds lazily drifted by. Lirra trilled softly, her eyes closed happily.
Brown leaves tumbled across the ground as the wind picked up. She ran a hand down Lirra’s head and neck. The pebble-like scales were cool and smooth.
The events over the last few weeks filled her memories and spilled over. She inhaled deeply to avoid crying, closing her hot eyes.
Sneaking into VinCar was a dangerous, outrageous thing to attempt. In doing so, she had endangered her nephew, nearly killing him. If not for the surprise mage allies and the explosions caused by her half brother, she would never have reached Davin. And if not for the Lirra, she’d not have escaped.
Thanking the Great Dragon, Kiaran spoke with only her thoughts, ”Lirra, I thank you--we surely would have died.”
“Hardly,” her eyes smiled. ”You are too determined, Uvara Sor. Now, we will return to Vintar quite soon.”
“...Yes,” Kiaran paused. “And how is Ryker?”
“He is doing well, Kiaran, do not fret.”
“Good,” Kiaran whispered. She worried all night about the boy, hardly able to sleep.
Her heart sped up for a moment and her ears perked to Davin shifting awake. He made soft sounds as he moved about. Lirra opened one of her golden eyes, looking past Kiaran. She kept still, waiting as Davin approached. He sat beside her, rubbing his head.
They were silent. Lirra purred deeply as she closed her eyes once more.
There were many things which had happened, yet she didn’t know where to start. All she really wanted was to take a moment to let everything sink in.
“I met my father,” Kiaran finally said. His eyes shifted to her and they remained silent. He was surprised, but said nothing of it, allowing her to speak. "He's...an interesting man. With his help, I was able to change my appearance to sneak into VinCar."
"...He gave you a disguise?" Davin asked lowly, his voice still rough with sleep.
"In a sense," she shrugged. She explained to him the magic used and how she was a completely new woman. She told him how Ryker had helped her to blend in with the family they worked for.
"Sounds like quite the lead of events," he muttered softly.
She shrugged a shoulder. “I also met your parents,” she added. He stared her down, silent. “You are a lot like your father,” she continued.
“I suppose I would be,” his voice was low. “How was my mother?”
“Heartbroken,” she sighed. “Her sons are in constant danger...” Her heart sank as she thought of Anille’s dislike toward her. She obviously blamed her for their danger. It made sense; she was what caused them to break away from Murdock.
“I think she blames me for your troubles,” she let out an uncomfortable, short laugh. “I suppose it is my fault...”
Davin grinned. Nothing could stop her heart from leaping. She missed that--more than almost anything. His smile, the one that reflected the beauty in his heart. Yet now, as he looked at her. As he smiled, she could see only darkness.
“Davin?” her eyes locked with his. She could see what was in him, that hesitation. The loss of hope and desire to die. “Do you still feel imprisoned?”
He fell silent for a long moment, his smile fading away. “I feel many things plaguing my mind...but they are subsiding with sleep and distance from VinCar.”
They paused their speaking, both hesitant. Finally, he asked, “How is Ryker?”
“Safe,” she breathed.
“Where is he now?” he asked.
“He is on his way to Vintar with Cyrin,” she explained shortly.
“Is he safe with him?”
“Of course,” she scoffed. “I wouldn’t allow him anywhere that he wouldn’t be.”
It became quiet again as they watched nature unfold before them. A few sparrows hopped about on the ground, flicking through leaves. Kiaran pulled her fingers through her short hair.
“So,” Davin’s voice broke through again, “What are we to do now?”
Her fingers continued to work through her hair. “What do you mean?” she asked flatly.
“We aren’t going to hide here forever are we?” he pressed.
“Well,” she sighed, “I suppose we couldn’t...We need to kill Sterjia and fix everything she destroyed.”
“Fix everything she destroyed,” he breathed, tasting the words as he grew lost in thought.
His eyes slowly moved to her. Her fingers came to the ends of her hair. The raven black hair was beautiful, even against her bloodstained shirt. Her hands rested in her lap, atop the layers of cloth that hung across her legs. Her silver eyes lifted to him and she could see the hurt on his face.
“How did you manage to get me out of VinCar?” he asked. “Are you wounded? I can’t believe I am only just noticing--”
“I am not wounded,” she smiled. She, then, said, “As for saving you? It was a very busy night, Davin.”
“Tell me,” he said, near desperate to hear something--anything--that could distract him from his past time in Sterjia’s care. Thus, she told him of her that night, the waiting, the spells and the mage who helped her.
“Heni?” he asked. “But...she--she died,” he said. “I watched her get sliced down.”
“That is who she said she was,” Kiaran shrugged.
It grew deadly quiet for several minutes, the sparrows filling the silence with their chirping. Davin looked to her, wondering about a previous statement.
Her eyes lifted to him and she could see a look of fear and pain. “What?” she asked at a whisper.
“Can we fix what I’ve done?” he asked. “I don’t know where to start...”
Her lips curled at the corners as she faced forward. The sun touched her face, her scars and tattoos gleaming with all her power and audacity. The small grin she wore tugged at Davin’s insides. “You do not need to worry, Davin,” she finally said. He watched her quizzically. “You don’t need to worry about that. Focus on other things for now.”
Lirra interrupted them by standing, her slender body stretching beside them. She trilled sweetly as she strolled toward the trees and rocks. The golden light washed over her bronze scales beautifully.
"It seems that he is important, Kiaran,” Lirra said in Draken.
“Lirra, do not mock me,” Kiaran retorted, though her smile never left. She could recall a previous comment, one where Kiaran stated that romance was unimportant. That she didn’t need it.
Davin watched as she spoke to the dragon, wondering what was being said. Lirra trilled toward him, her eyes locking with his. Her words reached both of them as she said, ”You are more special than one had believed.”
Kiaran flushed slightly and stood. Even in half torn clothes and covered in filth, she was beautiful. Her body curved perfectly into her hips. She stretched her arms and back then walked to the dragon. Her walk was nearly a strut, as if telling the world what power she held. He stood as well, lowering his gaze to his feet.
How could he ever again walk with such a stride? He was a monster. Falling to Sterjia’s will so easily.
She looked over her shoulder at him, her silver eyes taking in everything about him. He felt like an open, torn book. He smelled of stench from the cell he sat in for weeks since his last bath. He ran a hand through his long hair, smoothing it back and out of his face.
“We should get you some fresh clothes,” she said.
“Aye,” he nodded. “A bath is needed as well.”
She paused, walking back to him, she said, “I will take you to Vintar. You can recover there for as long as you need.” He nodded and kept from looking to her. “You will be safe there.”
“What about Rishana?”
“I am uncertain,” she shook her head.
He frowned. “Sterjia has started a civil war.”
She froze, unsure of what to say.
Reaching out, she touched his shoulder and his eyes finally locked onto her. “You must heal before we worry about anything else,” she said. He didn’t reply and she added, “We have a lot to get done. But I want you to be full again, first.”
Though she new he were physically free from that place, there was no way he was completely free. He would have to confront his demons every day.
He watched her, then looked away. "Thank you, Kiaran."
"Don't thank me," she answered.
When he looked at her once more, her heart sank. She wanted to reach out, but how? How would she help him? What sort of touch? Finally, she settled with the decision to simply return his gaze and remain quiet.
The fire blazed beneath the pot of simmering water as Stella absentmindedly stirred it. It set off a humidity that the outside didn't have.
The scent of burning wood and autumn leaves filled Cyrin’s lungs as he stood by the open window. The wind dragged a frozen dagger through him, clashing with the fire’s heat. His coat hung on the wall, his sword with it. His elbows dug into his thighs as he sat in the small chair. His hair hid his face from the world as he stared at the fire.
Nurra climbed up Ryker’s chest as he sat on the upholstered chair. He looked over the boy as if checking for wounds. He pet his head gently, keeping as silent as the others. He was still tired and a bit weak.
“That...woman is much more powerful than I thought,” Estiahn mumbled to himself. He leaned against the table, holding a hand to his chin in deep thought. Cyrin watched him, hoping with all his might that Kiaran was alive. “If Sterjia could change her appearance without using the potion...” he continued, “Then she is far greater than any mage I’ve ever heard of.”
“That would explain how she holds such power over her people,” Petre replied lowly.
Ryker watched Nurra as he leapt away, going back over to Estiahn. The adults talked for a while and he lost interest, looking to his hands in despair. If only he was stronger, he could have helped Kiaran. He hated not knowing if she was safe or not. Did she get to Davin? Was he saved?
Stella sat on her knees beside him. Leaning over, she spoke to him softly, hoping to lift his spirits. “Kiaran is a power of her own.”
“Perhaps we should go back to Vintar like she proposed,” Estiahn stood from the table and walked across the room.
“We?” Cyrin asked.
“Aye,” he nodded. “It doesn’t matter to me anymore. I will give up this status as Destine so I can see my wife again. Sterjia is overpowering the world...” He paused. “I can’t help anyone if I stay here. I’ll come back with you. With the world in the state that it’s in, I can bare to break a few rules.”
Behind the men’s words, Stella could hear Ryker as he began to cry. He tried to hide it, though, and she pat his back sweetly. She watched the boy as he hid his face in his hands. It broke her heart to tiny pieces.
“All will be fine,” she whispered. She stroked his hair and repeated her words, adding, “They will meet us in the city. Alright?”
His eyes met with hers, the whites reddened from tears. “You say that as if you believe it,” he said flatly as he stood.
“I do,” she smiled warmly. “Let us go.”
Just outside, a large dragon landed in a flash of black, purple eyes glowing sharply. “Ruthianna,” Cyrin said softly as he moved to the door. “We need to get back to the palace. Get your things, everyone.”
It was in that moment that Ryker felt the world was about to change. When they'd return to Vintar, nothing would be the same.