Tensions ran high on the trip back down the Mountain. Tal spent a lot of his time in the back of the wagon, shut away from everyone. Detalia was the only one brave enough to go back and talk to him, and even then she wasn’t back there long before taking her place beside Spiros on the driving front of the wagon. She and Spiros got along really well as she was very interested in the Faerie culture and he was very good at talking about himself. Vitania spent a lot of her time sitting on the top of the wagon, trying to practice the meditation Yerlexia had taught her without getting angry at the Ancients during it.
She had started noticing small changes, things that you wouldn’t have noticed unless you were looking for them. She started paying closer attention after she attacked Detalia. Vampires were swift yes, but even a Vampire wouldn’t have been able to put a Lycan on the ground that fast, regardless of training, time turned, age, they still had animal instincts to duck or retaliate. The other thing that sparked her attention was the fact she could hear; no, feel, Detalia’s heart beat as if it was her own. Out of all the Vampire senses she knew that one was not normal. So she started to pay closer attention, and found herself looking at things a different way. She knew when Spiros would get excited because his wings would flutter and glow a little silver, she could feel the shiver and shake in her veins. She knew that something was wrong with Tal because the energy that surrounded him and now filled the interior of the wagon was dark, depressing, and extremely negative.
She spent a lot of time on the roof of the wagon on the trip down the Mountain, to be closer to the sun. As only a half Vampire she took as much advantage of the sun as possible. Before she tried to tan, but now she just enjoyed the rays, it was her only way of staying connected to the life she had before. That way as soon as the sun rose in the morning, she could feel all the cells in her body open up like flowers, to welcome the vitamin D, or whatever nutrients the Ardtrean sun gave to her. It tickled when her body woke up; from sleep, or from meditation, it felt like millions of tiny legs were running along her nervous system, making her twitch, as her blood and muscles prepared themselves for a new day.
The only peace she could get close to was when she meditated, although sometimes it was hard to concentrate due to the odd, empty feeling inside her. It resembled the feeling of panic and loneliness like when she saw her mother “escorted” from their home. Every now and then she would feel pain in various areas of her body, and a lot of the time ended up with a headache or feeling very thirsty after wards.
Sleeping was the worst for her. If she wasn’t dreaming of her mother, she was reliving the experience with the manuscript in the Mountains of Is. It started out the same, with her staring at the candle and the light engulfing her like a fog but the images she saw were always different. It would sometimes be what she saw that day in Lykar’s tower, or it would be visions of fiery pits that could resemble hell, or a dark, bloody tapestry that shouted painful slurs in an unknown language at her. Either way she always awoke with her muscles burning, and the taste of blood in her mouth. In the fury of her nightmares she had begun biting her lip or worse, sometimes biting at her own flesh. Detalia had promptly noticed she was started to wear more clothing and bothered her about it for days before she finally gave in and showed her the wounds, explaining about the dreams.
“Can’t you see someone here for the nightmares?”
“It wouldn’t be a good idea even if she could.”
Detalia, Spiros and Vitania sat around the campfire one night after Tal had gone to bed, discussing her nightmares.
“It would lead to too many questions,” Spiros explained, “why were we in the mountains, what happened, what are you dreaming, what do you mean you’re not half human like all of Ardtrea knows? It would be a dangerous thing to attempt and stupid on our parts. We are trying to lay low and keep her safe.”
Vitania scoffed and felt a small pain in the back of her neck. Keeping her face straight and rubbing the back of her neck she continued.
“We don’t exactly look like a normal travelling group, we already stick out; two Lycans, one of which is old enough to have war badges, a Faerie and a half Vampire. I’m surprised we haven’t been hunted more already.”
Spiros looked like he was going to say something, and then gave an agreeing shrug. She had a point. In her world, this would have been strange enough, but in Ardtrea it was unheard of. Normally they were hunting each other, at least before the treaty was signed, even then it had been just a constitution that the races wouldn’t kill each other, not that they were going to be friends.
At one point Vitania felt a presence out of the ordinary coming from the forest, and talking about finding something to drink, excused herself from the threesome and headed down a path behind the wagon.
Detalia was left alone with Spiros; something she had hoped would not come up. He was too fascinating to her; his home, his history, his eyes, his wings. She never thought about actually being able to come to Ardtrea, let alone meet some of the creatures Tal had told her about. Her heart ached when she thought about him, and she looked shamefully at the wagon where he slept. She had never had anyone, and now the only person she did have was pulling away from her. He was angry all the time, and fought with Vitania more than before. The way he talked it always seemed like he had put his past behind him and let go of the animal instinct, but when it came to Spiros, she knew he wanted to rip his throat out. He had told her he didn’t want her hanging around him, and she had gotten angry with his need to control her.
“I’ve seen the way he looks at you, he doesn’t just want to be a friend, and for a Faerie to want a Lycan is wrong on so many levels.”
“He doesn’t want me Tal, and even if he did it wouldn’t matter. We’re not the same species and I know nothing about him. Why are you so threatened by him?”
“So you have thought about getting to know him then.”
“That wasn’t what I meant Tal--.”
“So what? Do you want to just sleep with him then? Get a little exotic experience under your belt?”
“I don’t even know you anymore!”
“What is that supposed to mean?”
“Being here is changing you. You’re ruthless, mean, a cut throat and you don’t think before you say anything. You keep starting fights with the boys, Vitania and now me!”
Her stomach began to drop and she could feel the sting of tears in her eyes as her voice turned to a throaty growl.
“I thought when you changed me that my life was finally going right, but I don’t feel like I know you at all. I can see why you never wanted to come back here, the way it turns you into a complete ass!”
She wasn’t prepared for what happened next, when his hand rose and struck her across the cheek. He was growling and panting, when Spiros flew around the corner and sent him flying over the wagon with an upper cut to the jaw. Detalia was lying on the ground, holding her face when she saw Tal lunge himself in full Lycan form, at herself and Spiros. She screamed but Spiros held fast, pulling up a shield with whatever Faerie magic he had, protecting both of them from Tals advances.
She remembered the expressions so clearly; Tal full of rage and jealousy, recklessly trying to get at Spiros and eventually her, and Spiros looking defiant and strong, passionate and keeping his stance against every attack.
Eventually Tal had weakened and Spiros had caught him in what appeared to be a giant bubble, and she remembered him talking to Tal but it didn’t sound like English at all. The general gist was that one should never hit a lady and that he needed to treat her better, and something Tal said about someone as flighty wouldn’t know how to treat a lady. When the bubble burst, Tal stalked off in the opposite direction of the wagon and Spiros had tended to her cheek. He mixed a blue flame and what looked like sand in his hands and rubbed it on her wound delicately.
“It won’t cure it entirely, I don’t know how to do that, but it will significantly reduce the swelling and the pain.”
She couldn’t have said anything if she wanted to, she just stared at him, dumbfounded by the warm and tingling feeling in her face and the shimmer in his eyes. For the first time she got a good look at why his eyes were so bright. They weren’t a normal colour, they were a silvery shade. Not a dull gray, they shone like silver glitter and the sky, and they were bright.
It had all happened when Vitania was in the Mountains, and when she came back and had told her something was different about him, she knew she was right. It was scary, being attacked by someone who was supposed to love her, and to see the change happening in him.
Then how Spiros had guarded her, and had helped in her healing process afterwards, it made her heart jump. She admitted he was good looking, and he was very sweet to her, but she couldn’t imagine being with a Faerie. They were so different, besides the obvious fur/skin ratio, and the different gene pool.
Yet she couldn’t resist falling into his eyes every time he looked at her, and since her and Tal hadn’t really had a conversation since the fight and he spent most of his time in the wagon, it made it harder for her to feel like she belonged with him.
Now they were alone, Tal asleep and Vitania off sneaking to the forest like no one knew, sitting in the silence staring at the fire crackling away in front of them. It wasn’t an awkward silence, they were just silent. She glanced over and caught him watching her, which resulted in both of them quickly looking back at the flames, Detalia going pink and Spiros going violet.
He sat back farther on his log and was silent again for a few moments.
“You look beautiful in the fire light.”
She felt the flush of her face again and then shook her head, feeling tears come to her eyes. Without saying a word she just got up and went to her tent, leaving Spiros alone with the fire.
When Vitania reached the edge of the forest, she jumped up into the trees to avoid stepping on the underbrush. Now that they were almost at the bottom of the mountain, there was no longer snow and the pathways were covered in dry, broken twigs, the only reason she heard whoever she heard in the first place.
As soon as her feet left the Earth, she felt multiple things shift in her body. The first she noticed was her sight; Vampire sight was brilliant in the night, but this was like she was looking at a topographical map, where the different groves in the tree were different shades of navy blue. Her muscles almost felt like they were under spasm but stretching all at the same time, tightening when her fingers laced around each tree branch. Under her finger tips she could feel the different textures of the branches, the different groves where animal claws and talons had dragged into it. She sat for a moment, eyes closed running her fingers along the tree, getting a feel for the pattern, the entity, the history.
After her eyes had readjusted to the darkness around her, she started in the direction she had felt the noise. When she started to get closer she could feel the shake in the leaves, the intelligence that even nature knew there was something present that shouldn’t be. It was then that she noticed a small glow coming from just right of the direction she had been headed, and started to slow down, creeping closer. She could feel the presence from before growing stronger and hear a whisper of voices back and forth. The shadow in front of her was long, caused by a light she couldn’t identify in front, the soft glow giving each strand of fur a halo. Ears twitched nervously back and forth, the tail unsteady as they were crouched down low. The light was a purple-white shade, and the voice that spoke from it was that of a woman; cocky and sarcastic.
“-and you’re coming back this way yes?”
“On our way, we should be back in a couple days. How is your prize?”
“Noisey. If I wasn’t in need of it I would have disposed of it already.”
She sounded disgusted and annoyed, he sounded cocky with an anxious undertone.
“I didn’t expect him to leave--.”
“It worked out better this way. Stay low Ktalahaë, because you will be no match for the Vèarah.”
Vitania suddenly clenched her teeth as her brain exploded in a migraine of information, looking for translations. Vèarah meant Vampire which she only assumed meant her by the fact that Ktalahaë translated into a name; Taliesin.
“She knows nothing of her powers or how to use them.”
“She visited the Ancients and from my sources met with Lykar who was once like myself, her fruits will ripen and most likely at an inopportune moment. Do not test her.”
He made a disbelieving grunt and the small globe of light grew to tower over him, taking the shape of the voice who spoke.
“Are you mocking me Dark Blood?”
Midian stood over him, and Tal shrunk, tail between his legs but ears perked up. Vitania couldn’t see his face when Midian let out a laugh.
“You didn’t think I knew did you? Nothing goes unnoticed in the Underworld, keep that in mind.”
Vitania raised her eye brow over the name she had called hi, but tried not to think too hard about to avoid another headache, and watched her figure shrink once more. They were done talking but nothing changed, Tal sat there and the light pulsed. She took this opportunity to back away, and retrace her steps, which still glowed a pale gray on the bark where her warmth had touched, back towards the camp.
When she arrived she found Spiros sitting alone, staring into the flames.
He looked up, and for the first time she saw a bit of sadness in his eyes.
“She went to bed.”
He sounded just as arrogant as normal, though his eyes told a different story.
“That sounds like a good idea; I think I will head that way as well. You should too.”
He shrugged, and poured sand onto the fire. Vitania instinctively leaned forward to stop him but changed her mind quick, but he had already noticed her movements and gave her a confused look. She forgot he probably thought Tal was sleeping and had just been waiting for her to return. She quickly bent over and did something with her boot, while Spiros resumed extinguishing the fire and then they went their separate ways to bed.
Vitania laid awake for quite a while, eyes closed, straining to hear or feel Tal come back from his affair. After a while she only heard the rustling of her companions in their tents, and her own slow heartbeat. She could feel her body lying down to rest and before long couldn’t keep it awake anymore.
When she awoke, the first thing Vitania did was check the back of the wagon to find it empty. She leaned out and looked around for signs of his appearance but found nothing.
“Is there a problem?”
The arrogance in his voice was more than usual, and when she turned, Tal looked more ragged than normal as well like he had been out all night.
“Well don’t you look like Hell.”
“Oh my God, Tal!”
Detalia ran over and started fawning over him, trying to clean his fur while he tried adamantly to get her to stop.
“What happened to you? It looks like you have been out all night!”
“I just went for a walk this morning to clear my head and tripped. The forest floor is no one’s friend. I just need to find a river.”
“There is one just over here; we gathered water from it earlier yesterday.”
They walked off together and Spiros came to stand next to her, angrily ruffling through supplies needing something to do.
“No werewolf I know just trips anywhere.”
He was right, she didn’t know a lot of Lycans but their races were similar and they were too much of hunters to be so clumsy as to just trip.
“Something isn’t right with him.”
“You’re not just saying that because you’re protective of Detalia are you?”
“I was sent to protect all of you, even if it is from each other. And something is not right with him anymore. We weren’t exactly fans of each other when I joined this escapade, but now he isn’t anyones friend. He even talks different to Detalia who is supposed to be his partner.”
The answer was quick and almost rehearsed, but was truthful. He was their guide and as their guide was also a guard seeing as two of the three of them had never even been to Ardtrea. They said nothing to each other and when Detalia and Tal re-joined the group they had already packed up and were ready to go.
Nothing had changed in the way they travelled, Tal still camped in the back while Spiros and Detalia took turns silently driving, and Vitania stayed on the roof. This time she was laying down, eyes closed, soaking up the sun and concentrating on the feelings beneath her.
Tal’s presence made her body ache, like a weight was crushing her from both above and below. It was as if he had this expanding bubble around him that pushed everyone away from him. Detalia looked less than pleased when they had returned, walking about ten paces ahead of her now groomed partner.
Some time went by and Vitania started to feel something else, a kind of disturbance in the flow around them. She could feel anger and like the Earth was yelling, she sat up alarmed and peered over the edge of the wagon.
“Can you guys feel that?”
“Feel what?” Detalia’s voice was instantly worried.
“I can feel something, yes.” Spiros’s wings fluttered faster and he was looking ahead in the direction of their travel, eyes squinted and concentrating. “Something isn’t right, the whole place is disturbed. The trees are shaking, and the ground feels uneven.”
“The ground feels fine to me.” Detalia sounded small and afraid, trying to convince them everything was normal, a tone that was new to Vitania as she had become quite headstrong through most of this trip.
“Something isn’t right, I can agree with you there, and it worries me--.”
But she stopped when they rounded the corner of the end of the pathway that opened up and showed them the forest and the field, with Saphyr and Drean beneath them.
A great black mass stood in the field, closer to Saphyr, just standing in the field.
Spiros stopped the wagon and the three of them just watched. Out of the corner of their eye they saw a black shape move like lightening, and heard a growl as Tal leapt from behind the wagon and started like a bullet, running towards the puddle of Lycans.
Vitania grabbed her friend and held her on the wagon, feeling her convulse as tears started to pour down her face and the heartache emanating from her cut Vitania like glass, as she watched her boyfriend and her maker abandon her, never giving her a second thought.
The sun was going down and as soon as the rays no longer touched the grasses, the walls of Drean opened up, and its own black mass resonated out, a sound of great hisses like millions of snakes running over the field.
She let go of Detalia, and placed her with Spiros.
“Do not let her go, and both of you stay here.”
Her eyes were black and the persistence in her voice made them both nod, Detalia’s expression of fear and shock, and Spiros’s expression of embarrassment for being told to hold Detalia.
Vitania turned and took off at a run, scanning the ground for any insecure spots and reached the head of the Viral army in record time. Daurin Falkrie stood there in his Melia, tired eyed and battle Wick ready. He was surprised when she showed up in front of him.
“What the hell--.”
“Mr. Falkrie,” she gave a low bow, “please know I mean no disrespect when I say this but; what the hell do you think you’re doing?! What is going on here?!”
“They captured one of our own Vitania.”
Her first thought was Sycon but her stomach dropped even further when he explained further.
“They have your father, and on top of that my son is missing too, Sycon. With the Lycans holding your father we can only assume they have my son as well and if they have risen their army we will rise ours as well!”
The last note he shouted and the whole Viral behind him cheered and raised their Wicks in a battle cry. She backed up fast to get out of the line of fire and watched as two races lunged at each other’s throats for the first time in years.