The Ardtrean Chronicles: Morality

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After the Morkid demon had been secured, Kynthelig had gone to contact the Spire and request their presence on this urgent and important matter. Regardless of his rank of being the Peace Keeper and one of the Virals most decorated war veterans, being retired meant he no longer could just appear before their Council without some kind of warning. They were both intrigued and lazy about the retired Viral officer calling upon them, and said that when he arrived they would discuss whatever his “urgent” matter happened to be.
He had gone back to the house not to pack anything for his trip per say, but more to tell his wife and daughter where he would be going and how long he may be gone. When he arrived back at his own home though he found the door had been destroyed, and both Courcelette and Vitania had gone missing.
The sensation of having goosebumps started creeping through his skin, being able to feel the residual energy from whatever had originally knocked down the door. It was unclear to him standing in his threshold if the beings were still in his home, although it was very unlikely.
Passing through into his front foyer, he noticed the door hadn’t just been kicked in, but blown off the hinges, the charred remains of dark magic lining the door frame in sticky tar-like patches. He waited, feeling out for any sense of unnatural movement besides the energy that usually emitted of his wife and daughter and the various pets. When he sensed no other beings in the house, he started to yell.
He waited, no response.
Also nothing, and no sense that they were in the house at all. Without hesitation he turned on his heel and disappeared.

Tal and Vitania followed Detalia’s gaze and pointing claw. Faintly off in the distance, probably more than fifty meters away, there seemed to be a hint of light almost like someone was standing there with a flashlight; not too bright, but bright enough to be noticeable through the dark trees. The dim glow made it seem like it was farther away than it actually was, and the three of them reached the target in only a few steps. It was unlike anything Vitania had ever seen, this bubble of light floating in the middle of a patch of ground that seemed to be covered in an all-natural gazebo of trees. It was thin as paper she noticed as she moved to come upon it from the side and it almost completely disappeared from her sight, yet bright like the moon as it was illuminating both Detalia and Tal standing on its’ one side. Coming back around to stand with the rest of her party she could feel a warm breeze emanating from the light itself on one side, and a cool mist coming from the opposite side. When they entered the small clearing it started to pulse a faint gold glow and let off a low hum similar to what a swarm of bees would sound like.
Faster than she thought they could fly, she heard the Minks by her ear heading face first into it but Vitania grabbed him by the tail just inches from its surface. The rift started to pulse heavily and the humming got louder, matching the same rhythm of her beating heart. The Minks was squirming in her hands, beating his wings trying desperately and letting out disgruntled wails, to get away from her grasp. Staring blankly at the rift in front of her, Vitania slowly opened her hand, and let Minks go. He tumbled forward awkwardly and disappeared through the light, causing it to shimmer like water that had a stone dropped in it, and showing briefly a tree line and a light in the distance. All three looked around to the other side and saw nothing but black, the Minks had gone through to Ardtrea. Detalia spoke first.
“So, are we following him?”
Vitania turned to the two standing behind her. Tal still looked unimpressed, a smirk played on his lips now and he had one eyebrow raised, ready for Vitania to back out. Detalia’s nose was twitching, her eyes full of apprehension and fear looking at the white mass in front of them. Vitania could feel the adrenaline, feel the curios fear in her own voice as she spoke, she couldn’t just stand by and watch something happen to her family.
“I’m going in.”
“Vitania,” Detalia grabbed her wrist as she stepped forward, “you don’t know where it’s going to end up.”
“I know it has to end up in Ardtrea, I’m sure they aren’t the most intelligent creatures,” to this Tal scoffed, “but the Minks wouldn’t have just flown through if it didn’t know where it was going or if it didn’t smell like home.”
She sighed and let go of Vitania’s arm.
“You don’t have to come with me. If I have to I will do this on my own.”
“Neither of you have been there before, you’ll need someone who knows a bit the land. Besides, it looks like it’s night there which means it’s dangerous for you two to go at all, we should wait until morning.”

When they looked the light had dimmed slightly to reveal a glowing outline and inside the outline was a navy blue sky with little flecks of light dancing in it to prove Tal was right about the time of day, and as they were wondering what they should do the rim around the rift starting to dissipate and the portal to Ardtrea .

“I don’t think we have that long, it’s now or never.”
She took a deep breath and outstretched her hand just enough to skim the surface. It was colder to the touch than she expected, but it didn’t have a real feel to it, just like putting her hand through artificial fog machine on Halloween. Without warning there was an intense pull and she instinctively closed her eyes as she was sucked in.
Cold enveloped her whole body, like being slapped thrown from a hot tub into a snow bank. Her limbs were being pulled simultaneously in every direction, her bones ached and were chilled through and through, her super senses going wild at the multitude of sounds and energy radiating off her. She tried to breathe but it felt like she was being crushed from every side, she could feel tears trying to escape but when she started to cry the tears never seemed to get farther than just over her eyelids, blurring whatever vision she had. She tried to grasp something, anything, to move out of this place she seemed to be stuck in. Then as quickly as it happened the pull came again and air slapped her in the face as she was thrown to the ground getting a mouth full of dirt.
She stayed on her stomach, crawling away from the rift, gasping for breath and coughing into the Earth. When she had gotten far enough away from the landing area, she rolled onto her back clutching her sides, catching the last of her breath and staring up at the stars. They looked the same but different at the same time, shining just a little bit brighter. Feeling liquid on her chin she licked her lips and tasted blood, her fangs had come out and she had punctured holes in her lip. It didn’t worry her much as they were about to heal over anyway.
She was only in silence a few moments when Detalia was thrown through the rift, landing on the same patch of dirt, coughing and gasping as she had. She reached and grabbed a hold of Detalia’s hand letting her know she was still there and Detalia squeezed back. Both of their breathing slowed as they stared towards the sky and waited.
They lain there for a long time, recuperating from the physical exhaustion they hadn’t been planning for, and then Detalia sat up.

“Where’s Tal?”

Vitania rolled over onto all fours and started to stand, but not nearly as quickly as Detalia had stood up and started to pace.

“Vitania. Vitania stand up.”

When she was up beside Detalia she saw the look of horror and fear on her face, she followed her gaze to their surrounds and understood why. It was dark out, very dark out, the rift was gone. Detalia ran over to where it had been and waved her arms in the air mindlessly, looking for anything, feeling for anything. She could hear sniffing first looking for signs of something she knew, which was then followed by sniffling. Detalia turned to look at Vitania, who was busy looking at their surroundings, paying no attention to Detalia which was a mistake on Vitania’s part.
They seemed to be back in a forest but right at the edge of it, through the threes she could see plains and night sky. They were standing in a clearing that’s for sure, but a much larger one than before, with pathways winding off in every direction. There was a sign post with arrows pointing down the paths but it was in Ardtrean and she didn’t know enough to translate. Off in the direction of the largest pathway she could see lights, or possibly the sun, she couldn’t remember what the time difference was like here.

“This is all your fault! If you hadn’t asked him to come back we wouldn’t be here alone and--.”
Vitania put a hand over her mouth and dragged her behind a nearby bush, putting a finger to her own lips to quiet her and then pointing to her own ears. She watched as the radars on Detalia’s head picked up what Vitania had hear over her hysterics and her eyes yellowed, letting go of her mouth they both crouched down and listened.
They could hear the sound of pads on sand approaching fast. Within seconds two sharply dressed Lycans appeared at the edge of the tree line. They were in short pants that cut off just before their hind paws and were wearing similar green breasted coats and cloth tied around their forehead, the symbol of the Lyvian stitched in the middle. Every edge was laced in gold trim and gold buttons down the front. Over the one Lycans heart rested what looked a larger piece of gold, most likely a Medal of Honor or rank.
They walked up to where the rift had been and started to sniff the air, talking low to each other.

“He said there were two bodies that came through and one was definitely Lycan.”
The one without the badge that was doing the sniffing was talking to what was assumed to be his superior officer or commander.

The soldier turned to his superior and watched nervously as his ears moved and twitched in radar circles, scanning the forest for even the slightest unnatural movement.

“Sir what do you propose we do?”

He looked down to the ground at the crawling marks and body prints, which Vitania now realized was a dead giveaway to their amateur travel. “The marks indicate new portal travellers-.”

“So you think they’re dead?”

The commander snarled impatiently. “If the portal had killed them, then their bodies would still be here on the ground, wouldn’t they soldier?”

“I, I suppose they would be.”
The soldiers tone changed to a puppy like whimper, and he looked shamefully at the ground, upset at his own stupidity.
Off in the distance something let out a terrible howl, a sort of low screech that vibrated through the forest, causing the second in command to flinch. The officer continued, not phased by the noise.

“One is Lycan and one is not, it’s something different and familiar at the same time. Either way, they won’t survive the night, the forest will take care of them before we can find them.”

He turned and started to walk down the path out of the woods, the second in command quickly caught up for safety, his tail down and slightly between his legs, the two talking in low murmurs that faded to silence as they got farther away. But Vitania was too far away in her own mind to try and make out what they were saying. What did he couldn’t identify her, she was a Vampire and maybe her mother’s blood was masking her Vampire blood, but someone of that rank would have known what a Vampire smelled like. Beside her Detalia fell back on the ground and rested her back against a tree, letting out the breath she had been holding in, then turning her attention to Vitania.

“I want to know where Tal is.” She glared at Vitania. Her yellow eyes reflecting the little light that was around her, and Vitania noticed she was trying to look menacing and threatening all the while her bottom lip was shaking.

“Don’t look at me like that, he’s a big wolf, I’m sure he’s fine. The only issue is that he might go to my dad if he can’t find or make another rift, which will mean not only will they come looking for us but our respective army’s might as well. For now we need to get somewhere, to someone we know we can trust.”
“I know I don’t know a lot about Ardtrea and the customs, but who do you think we can find and trust being that we are a Vampire and a Lycan travelling together? It’s pretty apparent that we are anomalies in ourselves.”
Vitania ran her fingers through the strands of her hair that had come loose from her braid, and scanned the dark trees in front of them. Detalia was right, either city would think that they were being held against their will by the other, and it would be very hard to get either of them out of jail from either city.
“Well, I think towards the lights would be our best bet, at least we can know which city we are closest to which will give us some direction, but we have to go carefully.”
“Why is that?”
Vitania raised her eye brow and shook her head,
“Well it’s what you just said; if it’s Saphyr, I’m screwed, if it’s Drean, you’re screwed. Our kinds aren’t supposed to like each other as you can clearly tell with how my father acts towards you and Tal. Each city has their own security features and torture for those of the opposite species.”
“I think he has a deeper hate for Tal than me.” She glanced sideways at Vitania who just stared at her.
“I think he’s a stubborn old man. It’s not his fault entirely, it’s just what has been bred into him. He was born, raised, and fought in Ardtrea with the Viral, the Drean Vampire army. My father believes everyone is guilty until proven innocent, regardless of the kind of human traits my mother has tried to get him to take on.”
She turned to face Detalia and shrugged her shoulders, trying to create a less awkward situation than the ‘my dad has killed a lot of your people’ thing.
“He’s really old fashioned. Old habits die hard, especially when you don’t die. Now let’s go, but stick to the edge of the tree line so we can avoid being seen.”
Detalia lowered her ears and followed Vitania’s steps. Detalia didn’t really know if Vitania wasn’t like her father, she didn’t know anything about either of them she realized. She knew they were Vampires, and that Vitania had been brought up by what she assumed was very strict Vampire code by the way her father controlled her. What if she knew the rift was going to close, and leave her without Tal? Being alone made her vulnerable, and put her very on edge which she was sure Vitania could sense.
She narrowed her eyes and watched Vitania’s every step. Where her arms swung to and where her hands rested. She had seen her reflexes; she had a lot more experience doing any kind of fighting than she did. She stayed a couple feet behind her as they made their way around the tree line, saying nothing and traveling in silence.
Vitania kept glancing back every now and then to make sure Detalia was still behind her. She noticed her larger than normal hind feet, but not as large as the Lyvian soldiers. Vitania had to admit, Detalia might not have much real world experience, but the blood she had in her meant she knew how to keep quiet. She wasn’t comfortable with the fact that Detalia was so far behind her. She could be quick Vitania knew that from the Morkid demon, and if she was to be caught off guard she didn’t know if she could protect herself against claws and teeth.
She felt a tingle, the kind of tingle you get right after you get rid of pins and needles, and stopped to look at the ground. A different pathway was in front of them.
“I think we should follow this path.”
“Into or away from the forest?” Detalia had a hopeful tone for the latter of the two options.
“Away. The clearing we left I think was one of the main roads to whichever town that is down there. This path might take us closer to the back of the town which could give us a more under cover way of getting in.”
“We’re out in the open on this path, there really isn’t any cover.”
“Both our species have night vision but it’s not super vision, and it’s very dark we should be fine. As far as I know we would see a guard tower before they would see us.”
“As far as you know.”
She glared at Detalia. “As far as we know. Both of us have the same amount of information about what is over there.”
Detalia pointed to the town. “You can’t expect me to believe your father didn’t teach you something about Ardtrea.”
“He gave me history lessons, things that happened years and years ago, like the history lessons you learn school about what wars went on and whatever stupid thing they were fighting about. They teach morals, they teach you not to repeat the past, they don’t teach you the maps of world you’re never supposed to go back and especially not on your own. I didn’t learn much about this day and age. What I learned, was not to make the same mistake, and the mistake my father and his generation made, even though he won’t admit it, was raging war on every other thing in Ardtrea that didn’t look like them.”
Detalia stared at her, not really knowing how to feel, Vitania not giving any indication of feeling anything. Vitania flicked her head in a beckoning way that suggested Detalia to follow. Vitania was crouched low, her fingertips grazing the cold ground, drawing out where she was in her head. Detalia was down on all fours, her eyes in narrow slits darting around, taking in the front of the path, darting over and around fallen leaves and branches. As they got closer to the wall, Detalia slowed. She could smell something. She moved her tail in the dirt to get Vitania’s attention.
Vitania turned to look at her, “what?” she mouthed.
Detalia raised her nose up slightly and started sniffing the air, looking around.
Vitania followed suit and Detalia watched as the white in her eyes disappeared, swallowed up the intense black of her Vampire sight.

“Blood.” Vitania’s voice came out in a very low whisper.
“Fresh,” Detalia turned to the west, “from that direction.”
Detalia crouched low she veered off the path, low to the ground with Vitania behind her. She could tell they were getting closer, the scent made her nose ache similar to way it burned when you come in from intense cold to intense heat, her throat get scratchy. This kind of blood wasn’t the same kind of blood she’d been use to smelling, which she had expected being in Ardtrea for the first time with her hyper senses, but it didn’t even have that familiar underlyng scent that mammals have no matter where they are from.
Up ahead they could see a crumpled, dark mass. Detalia was closest and got there first, Vitania stopped beside her, inching forward and looking at the dark spot in the grass. This is when it was unfortunate to have the senses that they do, the smell was even worse up close making both the girls gag a little.
“What is it?”
Vitania wished she could answer her but couldn’t, she didn’t know what it was either. It had no distinct shape to it, no detailed characteristics that could tell them what they were looking at or if it was still alive at all. If there wasn’t pools of sticky liquid assumed to be blood, it would just look like a bag of rags that had been shredded and left in the middle of nowhere. The pool was large, the edges of it touching the pieces that were scattered in the same pattern that a dog rips apart a chew toy. Vitania leaned as close as she could to the pool and ran her fingers through it; it had the consistency or fresh tar, sticky and hot. She placed her hand on the mass and tried to feel for something, anything at all, any kind of pulse or slight breathing.
At first nothing happened, they both held their breath and waited. When it didn’t move, Vitania stood and nudged it with her boot, just to be certain it was actually dead. Unfortunately that worked and they heard a sputter and immediately both of them were belly down, as close to the ground as they could get. They heard a gasp and then a raspy voice tried to talk in a language they couldn’t understand.
Neither of them said a thing, but just stared as the thing tried to roll over, its mass sounding like a sock squelching in a wet boot.
“I can still smell you. Please -”

Detalia’s ears perked up at the sudden change in language, and she pulled her head a little farther out of the grass.
It was barely audible but she crawled closer and let loose a low growl.
“You wouldn’t - I’m already - I’m dying.”
Vitania was next to Detalia now, confused and defensive, holding her voice strong.
“What are you?”
She took a step back, any human color left in her pigment faded and her stomach dropped to her feet as it spoke again to her.
“Who did this to you?”
There was a long silence and Detalia raised her eyebrow at Vitania, whispering.
“Now is it dead?”
“Ca-th-s.” Detalia jumped slightly at the sudden noise.
The word was broken up, and Vitania could feel the air around them change, whatever life it had left was leaving, the pool around it growing larger. Without warning there was a blast of energy that knocked them both over and swept over the plans, rocking the walls of the city closest to them.
“We have to get out of here.” Vitania spoke in a rushed whisper, urgency laced in her voice.
“We can’t leave it.”
“Did you feel the ground shake? Someone is going to come looking for the disturbance, and we can’t afford to get caught.”
“If they see us running won’t they think we were the murderes? We should stay and try and explain it to them.”
“This isn’t the world you’re used to Detalia!” Vitania was letting her emotions get the best of her and she could see she was making her uncomfortable by the way her ears were drooping but she didn’t stop. “There is no such thing as DNA tests here to see if you’re the culprit, if you’re found next to a body it’s because you were the one that killed it. It looks worse because I touched the damn thing so if it’s Lyvian officers I’m definitely going to be the one getting my head chopped off or my blood drained, who knows what they would do to the daughter of Kynthelig Masters and I definitely don’t want to find out. So if you want to stay here and try your luck with the possibility we were closest to Saphyr and not Drean, go right ahead, but I’m not staying here next to a Fate.” Vitania’s tone of voice and the way she was shaking, was enough to make Detalia feel uneasy so she let her pull her away from the corpse on the ground.
As they were running back towards the forest they saw a pool of light spill out onto the plain before them. The light didn’t reach them, but it was enough that they could see Lyvian officers pouring out and rushing towards where they had just been standing. The Lycans were shouting and pointing, gathering around and rushing off in all directions, passing Detalia and Vitania on both sides. They were crouched low in the grass and bushes at the edge of the forest, watching the officers beeline for different areas making it obvious they were looking for something, or someone, specific. Vitania poked Detalia and put a finger to her lips; they couldn’t risk making a sound due to the fact that the Lyvian army was famous for its super sensitive hearing, which is what made them the best at surprise attacks. She motioned her hand to get lower to the ground; the lower they were the better chance they had at not being seen, the darkness was on their side now. Nodding, Detalia crouched as low as possible, her eyes darting, watching each soldier. They heard the footsteps get farther away, until they couldn’t hear them at all anymore. Carefully, Detalia perked up her ears, looking around. Vitania narrowed her eyes but couldn’t detect any out of the ordinary movement.
She mouthed to Detalia, “Okay, let’s go,” and pointed to the East edge of the forest where they were going to run. The first priority was to get as far away from this crime scene as possible, especially with blood on her hands. If tt was any other blood besides this, she would have already disposed of the evidence but she would never dare tasting what was staining her pale fingers.
They started slow, looking around constantly for any sign of movement or for anything that sounded like rushing footsteps. They were getting farther and farther from the gates of Saphyr, just a little farther and they would probably be able to run out in the open without the fear of being caught.
Vitania started to pick up the pace and Detalia followed. It was just like when she was jumping on the roof tops. The wind whipped around her but she hardly felt any of the happiness the adrenaline brings on from before. She felt every muscle in her legs move of their own accord, making sure she was quiet and cautious, hardly making a sound so as no detail escaped any part of her vision.
Detalia on the other hand, had a sinking feeling. Her heart was aching and it was hard to stay focused. She only ran like this when she was hunting with Tal, and now she had no idea where he was or if she would ever get to see him again. She fought back tears, if she cried she wouldn’t be able to see and right now her sight and hearing were her best defences. Her stomach dropped as she heard a twig snap and whirled around just in time to see a net heading in her direction. She crouched and braced for impact but it never came. Instead she heard a swooping noise and a swish and a blade had come down right in front of her, slicing the net in two. Vitania stood, sword gripped firmly between her two hands, between Detalia and the mystery assailant..
“I didn’t know you had a sword.”
“Shut up Detalia.”
“Hey you! You there!”
Much to Detalias shock, Vitania suddenly showed compliance with the enemy and tried desperately to wipe her hands on her gear, groaning in furstration.
“What are you doing? Get that thing back out! Defend us!”
Vitania’s head whipped back and stared at Detalia in the disappointed, angry way a mother would scold a child and Detalia’s heart sank further to her feet.
“I said shut up Detalia.”
Vitania returned her gaze to the oncoming sounds of paws hitting ground, looking calm and unimpressed, while Detalia knew she reeked of fear and nervousness. They watched as the two Lyvian officers approached them. They were in the same green uniforms that they had seen before, but by the amount of decoration they could see, they were low in rank, a smirk spread out of the right side of Vitania’s lips. They stopped a few feet away and got into a defensive state. Vitania just threw out her hip and crossed her arms across her chest.
“You there! Lycan! What are you doing with that Night Child there?”

Vitania squinted her eyes at the slang but said nothing, while Detalia cleared her throat trying to find her courage.
“This night child,” she said with clear, quivering distaste, “happens to be a friend of mine, and if you’re any kind of officers you’ll help us out.”
“I’m sorry?” They sounded disgusted and exchanged glances of confusion.
“Listen we could really use--.”
“You will speak only when spoken to Vampire!”
Although they didn’t use slang when addressing her this time, Vitania still let out a low hiss and both officers grabbed their weapons. Detalia jumped in between the officers and Vitania.
“Please, help us. We’re not from Ardtrea. We accidentally came through a rift we don’t even know where we are.”
The two officers looked at each other for a moment, the expressions on their faces unsure whether to believe them or not. They looked both of them up and down and put their weapons in their holsters.
“It would explain why you two are together, but we can’t promise the Vampires safety if we bring her in.”
“If you can’t guarantee it than we aren’t coming with you. We can stand out here and fight, which neither of us would be bothered by especially if it will be a little while before anyone comes looking for you.”
The tone of her voice had dropped and become slightly menacing, something Vitania didn’t think she had in her and was impressed with Detalia, particularly because they were technically her own species. Regardless of Ardtrea training, blood was kind to blood. After a moment’s hesitation, the officers nodded their head.
“Fine, we will make sure we get you both to the Lyvian Headquarters, the General is probably going to want to question you and your-,” Vitania let out an almost inaudible hiss, “-friend here anyway.”
Detalia let out a low sigh and glanced over at Vitania who was watching the guards, much to their discomfort. The party walked rather slowly back to the gates of Saphyr, no one saying anything except the two officers sputtering words in Ardtrean every now and then. They were smart enough, knowing that if they were truly not from her that they wouldn’t be able to understand what they were saying. With every step towards Saphyr she could feel Detalia’s emotions getting louder, nervousness and adrenaline as she looked up at the wall of the city. It looked to be around fifty feet tall, the doors matching their height plus a little more, and much more extravagant than the concrete. They were made out of some kind of metal, you could tell by the way it had been carved and polished. There were different markings on each door, etchings and symbols that seemed random to Vitania but was sure it told some kind of historical tale. Detalia’s eyes were wide, intrigued and bewildered at the giant pieces of art, but as they got closer to the doors Vitania started to cringe.
“What’s wrong? Detalia put her hand on Vitania’s shoulder and the officers shot them a smug look.
“Graded silver, it’s harmful to Vampires.”
“I’m impressed,” Vitania could barely speak through gritted teeth, “it’s the perfect way to keep a Vamp out. They wouldn’t be able to touch it without getting seriously hurt.”
“Exactly, the whole wall is laced with it.” They shot Detalia another look as she swung Vitania’s arms over her shoulder, steadying her kindness to one of their species enemies, as the doors opened.
“But I thought silver was to ward of werewolves?”
Vitania chuckled and coughed up a little blood much to Detalias worry.
“Stories made by Lycans when they used to travel to different worlds. Myths they created so when they were being attacked, they would be unharmed, coming off as superior beasts. Or faking their own death in order to escape save someone found out the truth. The other side thinks they’ve won and the Lycan gets to live.”
“We’re smarter than you think Night Child.”
Detalia watched Vitania roll her eyes and stare down at the shackles they had put on her, which she had let them do voluntarily to give them a sense of security, even though if she wanted out of them she could get out of them. They were probably also flecked with this graded silver as her wrists were starting to go pink where they lain. When the doors opened, the first thing Detalia noticed was the presence of two guards on either side of the entrance way. They let out throaty warning growls as they walked past, regardless that the Commander held up his paw. When they didn’t comply the Lycan let out a sharp bark making them stand straight, growls silence. Confused, they closed the gate, and kept watching her and Vitania.
Detalia felt no shame carrying her friend on her shoulders, she was proud to have a friend at all let alone someone who was going to be okay with her being what she was. The entire towns energy shifted but she was too busy taking in her new and extremely exciting atmosphere, like instead of walking on cobblestones or pavement, all the paths were made of sand. It felt lukewarm under her paws, more therapeutic than she had thought it would feel and told herself she would have to suggest a sand path around the house to Tal. Her stomach knotted again and swallowed hard.
She refocused her attention on the city, and noticed they now were walking through what seemed to be a residential area, small cubs running in an out of little stone houses and jumping over fences after each other. The streets were pretty cramped that she could see from the lack of space between houses, they were maybe a few feet apart, and the front yards not very big if there were front yards at all. The houses lucky enough to have grass or greenery in any way didn’t get much of it as there were large trees that took up half the property. The children didn’t seem to mind the lack of grass as she noticed they were much more contet using the trees for climbing or sharpening their claws. She let out a whimper at wanting to climb and roll among the blades, prompting strange looks from the rest of the party which led her cheeks to flush and her eyes to stare forward again.
At every intersection was a bunch of street lights that lit up the road like it was dawn, although they weren’t running on electricity but rather huge flames that glowed a hot white, she felt their intense heat as they walked underneath them and it was wonderful. Everyone stared at them as they walked through the town, some growling, others gossiping, others just looking out of curiosity. Vitania hissed at a pack of young Lycans that were watching her, trying to get close enough to touch her without her noticing. As they recoiled the Commander turned to stare at Vitania.
Knowing Vitania was only doing it to seem threatening and didn’t mean them harm, Detalia let out a small giggle almost as a warning, and the Commander looked her up and down one more time before they continued through.
Eventually the neighbourhoods’ and small houses fell away to reveal instead of sand, a white pathway or some kind of stone. There were large trees lining each side of the now cobblestone walkway, and it was some time before they came across what looked like a giant roundabout. Right in the centre was a grand statue , made of the same white substance, portraying a particularly decorated Lyvian office with his boot stomped down a sword at the throat of his victim. As the got closer and rounded the statue, Detalia could make out some of the details on the victim; pointed ears, hollow looking eyes, pointed teeth. She gasped and suddenly wished she hadn’t because Vitania to look up from her bored saunter to regard the statue for herself. Detalia watched as her eyes darkened at the statue and thought she could see just a glimmer of white from under her lip. She reached out her paw and gently touched Vitania’s elbow, actually causing Vitania to jump but Detalia stayed calm, regarding her with concerned eyes. Vitania scoffed and pulled her arm away, rolling her eyes at the disgusting display in front of them. With the statue behind them they found themselves at the bottom of an enormous stair case, leading up to fortress so large they could only see the front doors as everything was too tall and rounded out of sight.

The officers flicked their heads in the direction of the castle, motioning for them to proceed, and it was obvious that they would be going the rest of their small journey alone. Every other step on either side stood a Lyvian guard, watching their every move, just as perplexed as every other Lycan in Saphyr. The doors had similar type markings to the ones on the front gate, but these doors were made out of what resembled a deep cherry wood of some kind that had been expertly polished, just more of a glam show. They stood in silence for a while, not knowing what to do, then Detalia leaned over to Vitania.
“Do you think we should knock?”
Before Vitania could respond with a smart ass comment, the doors let out a loud thud and a clang as the lock shifted, opening the doors just enough for the two of them to walk through side by side. Once through they found themselves in a huge round room made of more of the white marble, a mimicking thud as they locked again. The room before them was decorated for what looked like royalty, with everything draped in velvet curtains of dark emerald green, and every piece of metal buffed so that it shone so immaculately it was almost blinding. Goblets and tapestries that looked like they were hand crafted by angels telling stories of great wars, wins and losses, games lined the walls on pedestals , each with one guard at the ready eyeing them both, with intensity mostly on Vitania. Directly in front of them, hung a large tapestry depicting a huge Lycan standing over his recent kill on all fours, shredded pieces of the poor creature he had just killed, blood still dripping from his teeth. Underneath this historical piece, was a large half circle, marble podium that sat seven very distinguished looking Lycans, all regarding them with emotionless eyes.
“Come closer.”
They couldn’t tell which one had spoken because the voice echoed throughout the room, sounding like it was coming from all sides, which was probably the point to enforce the power. They both walked forward slowly, Detalia more curious and Vitania trying to appear like she didn’t care even though deep down she was starting to get nervous. When they got a couple feet from the desk, one of them on the right held up a paw for them to stop. Before anything else could be said Vitania pulled Detalia into a low bow alongside her, when they straightened up, the Lycan directly in front of them looked confused.
“Why do you bow to us Vampire, we are not your elders.”
“On the contrary, if you’re older than I am, I consider you an elder.”
“It is not smart to mock the court in which you are standing in.”
She turned to the Lycan on the left that had just spoken.
“I assure you, I am not mocking you. My friend and I are quite lost.”
“Is it not a disgrace to everyone to call a Lycan your friend, Night Child?”
“But she is my friend!” Detalia’s shrill voice seemed ten times louder in this room and she immediately covered her mouth with her paw, shocked at how loud she had just been.
“Sister, why do you fall to her tricks.”
She took in a deep breath, trying to keep down the frustration at the ignorance of the creatures in front of her.
“Please just listen, we are lost. We came through a rift and now-”
“You opened a rift?”
“I-uh” Detalia stuttered.
“She didn’t say that did she? She said we came through a rift. It was already opened when we’d found it. We didn’t even know what it was.”
The panel of Lycans stared them down.
“We will not be spoken to like that Night Child.”
“Then how about you listen to what we are telling you. We found one, we fell through, now we’re here.”
“We know who you are Night Child.” A new voice from the right spoke now.
“You are the daughter of the former Keeper of the Peace from the Viral Circle.” Another new voice from the right.
Detalia’s eyes shifted to Vitania who stayed staring at the speaking Lycan.
“This means you’ve been here before.”
“My memories or Ardtrea are very fuzzy.”
“You can’t play dumb with us Night Child.”
“Neither can you. If you know my history you should know that the Keeper of the Peace hasn’t been back in Ardtrea for quite some time. And also,” Her eyes started to go black as she talk, “it’s Vitania, not Night Child. And why would the daughter of the Peace Keeper come to a place she hardly knows or remembers just to cause trouble.”
“It is not for us to try and understand the ways of your kind, you are confusing at best, and these all sound like lies to us. You’re here to infiltrate and report back to the Viral commander so that you can plan an attack based on the map of the city!”
“Hush Tycos! That is enough!” The large, more commanding voice boomed over the room causing the excitable Lycan to cease.
“Believe what you want,” Vitania was breathing heavy trying to calm her emotions, “but if you know your history as well as I do, the only time I was here was when I was a child in order to figure out what species I was and to make sure travelling to Ardtrea through Portals was possible for me. I’ve never had a reason, or a want, to come back here since then as I thoroughly enjoy my life in the mundane world, much more entertaining than the archaic lif here.”
Vitania folded her arms in front of her chest and swung out her hip, she knew she looked like a bratty teenager but she really didn’t care, she just needed them to believe her. Detalia raised her hand and let out a just barely audible “I second that.”
The council looked over them and exchanged glances, thinking about these obvious facts and that even though they wanted to believe she had come on malicious intent, they had no proof save for speculation.
“We will put you up for the night, both of you being closely watched, and in separate rooms, while we discuss what we have heard. We can’t trust you Night Child due to our obvious differences, and we can’t trust you young one, because you are clearly confused and corrupted by this, thing.” The head of the Elders gave a nod and they were both handled out of the hall but not before Detalia caught the eye of a Lycan on the farthest left side who was looking down on them with peculiar curiosity.
Detalia kept looking over at Vitania as they were led particularly abusively,\down a dimly lit hallway but the blunt edges of the staffs the soldiers were carrying, but she wouldn’t look at her. She turned her attention to the wall as it was the only thing of interest to her, seeing the portraits of older Lycans placed strategically a few feet apart, all down the hall, each portrait illuminated by two candles.
“Vitania, what are we going to do?”
“No speaking.” The soldiers bark she hoped was worse than his bite and Detalia put her tail between her legs.
Vitania kept her eye gaze forward and didn’t turn her head or avert her eyes or anything to look at Detalia. Detalia watched as she was prodded in the back eveyr now and then with the tip of the staff that had been dipped in liquid silver, causing her to arch her back slightly with each touch. She could feel the burning sting go through her clothes and singe her flesh, which was much easier now that they had stripped her of her armour and weapons when they started down the hallway, but she let no expression of pain or discomfort show. She could remember her father reading the ways the Lycans had tortured Vampires during the War of Species, she didn’t think she’d ever be re-living the medieval ways they got their points across, although the sting wasn’t as bad as what her father described but that was probably because she wasn’t a full Vampire. She knew Detalia was watching her but there was nothing she could do or say to put her at ease, so she kept her gaze steady away from her, if she saw her eyes she would know she was in even the slightest amount of pain. Eventually they stopped in front of an oak door flecked through with gold, the guards stood on both sides of the door as it opened, motioning for Detalia to go inside. She looked back at Vitania who stayed staring ahead.
“Good night.” Was all she could say to the silence in the corridor, if she had been blind she never would have known there were three other people standing there.
The guards said nothing except pulled the door closed.

Detalia was left standing solitary in this new environment; she twisted her fingers together and rotated in place, overwhelmed by her surroundings. The room was incredibly beautiful, she felt almost like royalty and unworthy at the same time of such lavish treatment. The floor under her was covered in a deep green, plush carpet that her paws sank gratefully into, resembling the comforting feeling of the sand from the streets. The walls made from a less polished marble, depicting obviously that this wasn’t the best room to be staying in, she couldn’t imagine what the other rooms could possibly look like. A fireplace was tucked away on the East wall, with embers just enough to warm the room to a cozy temperature, with the walls surrounding it covered with bookshelves upon bookshelves of literature. A pair of grand arm chairs were set up in front of the flame, coupled with matching ottomans and side tables, the fabric virtually untouched by any being in quite some time. The walls were littered in portraits of lady and gentlemen wolves, little cubs, social event paintings and schools. Walking up to one she ran her fingers across the jagged edges and raised paint of what she assumed was an acrylic like substance. A tingle like a spider running across her foot caused her to look down and see moonlight starting to creep through the glass of a set of double doors. A force that was not of her own consciousness brought her closer to the window and flicked off the clasp. The doors opened to reveal a wide half circle, stone balcony, as if she was standing in a fairy-tale. Walking further to the edge her view extended to the whole city, she had been unaware just how high up they had traveled with the guards. The whole town was bathed in moonlight, illuminating every detail of the thatched roofs, the glistening sand, even the medals and buttons on the uniforms of the Lycan officers patrolling. She felt pins and needles coursing through her body as if she was about to change fully which never happened anymore just by standing under a full moon, but this astronomical chunk of rock was much larger than their own moon, and everything about it was just more elaborate. It seemed to be brighter, shining stronger on this place and on her, as if it was wrapping its illuminated arms around her in a familiar embrace. She stood there for who knows how long, her eyes closed, learning against the balcony just basking in the moonlight until a cloud started to drift in front of it, breaking the amazing feeling much to her disappointment. When she came out of her trance she noticed the stir in the air and could hear voices below, some Lycans staring up at her little display which even though didn’t feel all that spectacular she felt slightly ashamed at her silent ecstasy on the balcony. She sunk back from the edge just enough to no longer be seen by onlookers below and felt the energy in the town dissipate, the town starting to wind down after the commotion of her and Vitania’s random arrival.
She peeked through the spaces of the tiny pillars that help up the stone railing to see Lycans in uniforms going around extinguishing the street light posts, and mothers ushering cubs inside as darkness fell over the town. This was just like one of the towns from her home just, filled with wolves instead, which didn’t irk her as much as she thought it would. The sudden breeze that reached her moved her whiskers and chilled her to the bone, the warmth of her room beckoning at her and she let it drag her back, closing the window and drawing the blinds. When she turned around she let out a small yelp at the female in white standing in her door way.
“I was sent to inquire if you were in need of a bath.”
She became aware of the ache in her bones and muscles from the adrenaline of going through the rift, and nodded in acceptance.
“Thank you very much.”
The chamber maid walked across the room through a door in the corner she hadn’t noticed, and Detalia could hear water start to run, the maid returning with a towel.
“You will need to undress so that I may wash your clothes while you soak.”
The maid just stood there watching Detalia, Detalia watching her back twisting her fingers again nervously. There was a couple moments of awkward silence and then the maid left the room again to tend to the running water. She quickly undressed, folded her clothes on the bed, and covered herself with the towel. She sat quietly until she no longer heard the water running and watched as the maid almost ran out and ushered her into the bathroom without a sound. Her first thought when she entered was how much she wish she had a pair of sunglasses. Hundreds of candles were lit so that the room gleamed an unnatural pearl white, almost to the point where she didn’t know if she should even touch anything. She looked up to see the roof was mostly glass and the moon was trying it’s hardest to break through the clouds, slivers of moonlight pouring here and there, caressing different areas of the room. The hooks on the wall for her towel, and the edges where the walls met the floor, and the roof were lined in gold. Against the wall sat a large marble slab with a gold bowl set into it, which is what she assumed was the sink, the bathtub a similar slab of marble. Everything was precise, every corner sharp, the whole room a great example of exact symmetry and architectural accuracy. She turned to see the maid still standing in the doorway of the bathroom watching her, her expressionless face making Detalia uncomfortable.
“Uh, thank you. You can, you can go now?”
The maid just nodded, left, and shut the door without a sound. Detalia didn’t know what to think but didn’t care that much as she got closer to the bathtub that was filled to the brim with steaming water, begging and enticing her. As she dropped the towel and stepped one foot in, the almost scalding water at first hurting her sore paws, but she sunk slowly in, with a sigh as her whole body started to relax. With every inch of her body melting farther into the water, she withdrew her claws and her fur, returning to a completely normal state, and letting all the stress and worry melt away with the water. There was a scent that was different to her she noticed now, wafting through the steam into her nostrils that made her head spin but she didn’t care, she wasn’t worried at all. She stayed in the tub looking up through the skylight, watching the moons war against the clouds, until most of her candles had gone out. When she went left the bathroom she found her clothes cleaned and a set of pyjamas folded neatly on the bed. Pulling the soft fuzz over her body, she nestled under the giant covers, and felt her body start to quickly give way to sleep. With every deep breath, the enchanting place around her allowed her to let go of thinking of Tal, let go of worrying whether they were all going to be alright, let go of reality.

Vitania watched the door to Detalia’s room close and slowly get smaller as she was led farther down the hall. She and her two guards walked by door after door and finally stopped at a beige, boring looking door, she rolled her eyes, ’probably some sort of servant chamber.’
“Alright well, thank you boys but I think I can tuck myself in.”
She reached for the handle but didn’t get too close before the guard on her right had his claws wrapped around her wrist, growling.
“This isn’t your room.”
Vitania raised her eyebrow and the other guard opened the door to show her a short staircase, the breeze coming through ice cold against her skin. They led her up the stairs for only a short while until coming to another door, this one slightly less boring, covered in some of the same types of markings from the other doors. The blast of odour that hit her when the door opened was enough to make her cough and her eyes water slightly, damn her human DNA for being so susceptible. The threesome walked into the room, Vitania with her hand over her nose, trying to hold back the tickle in her throat.
A familiar Lycans voice came from the figure bent over the table.
“Thank you gentlemen, you may go.”
The guards hesitated for a moment, but left and shut the door behind them. Once it latched one of the elder Male Lycans from the podium before turned from the table to face her. On the table was clearly a body, the curves in the shape obvious to a corpse, but it was covered by a white sheet. Vitania stood still for a moment, and then bowed once more, not standing until he spoke to her.
“You perplex me Night Child.”
She stood straight and looked him in the eyes. “I told you, I am here by accident. I mean you no harm.”
“Accident? No that is a lie and we both know that, but that you mean me no harm is the truth indeed.”
Vitania kept eye contact, trying not to show anything on her face.
“I know your father unfortunately quite well,” his hand absentmindedly tracing along his right hip bone, “and if he has taught you even a little of what he knows, I would have been dead the moment the guards left the room. They knew that too hence why they stayed longer than they should have”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” She wasn’t looking at the Elder anymore but at the body on the table.
“Ah yes,” he waved his hand, “come closer. It seems you have come across my path at quite a convenient time, I am in need of your opinion.”
Completely confused as to why an Elder Lycan would want her opinion, she did as she was told and walked closer to the table, the Elder pulling back the cloth. Vitania winced at the site of the dead Lycan “looking” back at her.
The head was twisted at an odd angle from the collar bone, the cause being that a rather large chunk of his neck was completely missing. The ends of tendons, nerves and vessels poking out at awkward angles, and upon closer inspection, looked to almost have been cauterized. The rest of the body she noted seemed to be bloated, not just gastrointestinal but even the limbs were noticeable larger save for where they were bolted down at the wrists and ankles which was curious to her, why would you need to bolt down a dead body? The tips of the Lycans fur had turned a shade of yellow almost like their eye color, and the original odour that hit her before was even stronger the longer she stayed close to the table. She reached out her hand towards the wound and gently scraped some of the blood onto her finger.

The Lycan immediately arched its back and let out a blood curdling howl that cut right to Vitania’s stomach, its body going into spasms and shaking the table back and forth trying to get free. Vitania jumped back, her ears ringing and her brain feeling like it was going to explode never hearing such a noise as this, her eyes locked on the sight in front of her.
Its eyes, instead of the regular yellow, ran white, with no pupils, the teeth she saw had turned blue and the tongue was completely black. The Lycan, or whatever you could call the poor soul strapped to the operating table, was clearly in unthinkable pain when the Elder reached back and brought his hand down stabbing its arm with a needle, pumping it with fast a translucent liquid. Almost instantly it fell silent, laying back on the table, its eyes still wide open staring at Vitania, no characteristic of brain power present.
“You can calm down Vampire.”
The Elder kept his eyes staring at the silent again body as he talked to her. Retracting her fangs she took her post again at the side of the table, attentively this time, her finger still sticky with its blood.
“He was one of my army’s best patrol wolves that we found feeding on an Ardtrean creature, which was odd in itself, but he did this even with half of his neck missing causing his efforts to feed futile as half the flesh he tried to ingest fell back to his feet. Many of his fellow officers could not look at him let alone catch him. He was unusually strong even for us, for our species, and it took us quite some time to grab him. He had to be brought back in bonds, because the other soldiers feared him, unsure what he could do. We even had to hide him from the citizens, from his family, to save them from seeing him in this state. I brought him up here, through the tunnels and passages under the city, to be kept under watch and so we could work on a cure, to try and reconstruct what he had lost and save his mind. Unfortunately his body rejected every cure we tried, every substance we could come up with, with what we know of demons and infections, but nothing worked. We told his wife he had died during patrol, which is rare but does happen, and kept him hear so he could be studied. That was well over three moons ago.”
He walked around the table, looking fondly at the soldier on his table as if he had a personal connection with him.
“The only problem is that we cannot figure out what has done this to him, what could have caused this bite. It’s definitely not a Vampire bite, as much as we wanted to blame the enemy of our species, none of us could agree that a Vampire could have or would have done this. We have all studied the creatures of Ardtrea but the people of Drean are creatures of the Night and have most likely studied different branches of dark creatures than we have, being creatures primarily of the Light. But we can not very well just, call up our neighbours and expect them to come with us to a secluded tower in our territory, now can we?”
“No, I suppose not”
Still staring at the immobile Lycan, she asked her question.
“What is it you want from me?”
“Simple. I want you tell me if that wound, is a vampire bite.”
“I can tell you right now sir that is definitely not a vampire bite. I’ve bitten, many small creatures back in my home, and they don’t ever, ever, look like that. Even when I have a mild human infection, our bites are clean, we only bite to draw blood. That wound, the flesh, the insides, have been completely torn like whatever it was, was trying to eat him. The bite is also much too wide, it looks like the jaws were big enough to break his neck in one bite. Then there is the case of the wound almost looking cauterized and from what you’ve told me he was still able to function after the fact.”
She looked at the Elder, pages of textbooks and history books, titles that her father had tried banning her from reading that she read when he was away on business anyway, the information flooding into her head.
“I can’t even guess at what might have done that to a Lycan. As far as my knowledge of Ardtrea goes, there is no creature big enough, stupid enough, brave enough, or any of the above, to try to attack a Vamp or Lycan alone or in a hunting group, let alone one of the enlisted of either city.”
The Elder sighed.
“That was what I was afraid of.”
He turned and leaned over the table, regarding that of his own kind, own flesh and blood, cringing ever so slightly on the cold wood.
The Elder spoke so softly yet the door opened and suddenly his two guards entered the room and took stance, waiting for instructions.
“Tak, you take the Vampire down to her proper quarters, Cal you stay with me.”
Vitania’s stomach sunk slightly at still being referred to as what she was rather than her name, after feeling like her and the Elder had reached some kind of happy medium. The guard called Tak tensed and shifted behind her and the Elder gave a strange smile.
“Don’t worry Tak, I am confident you can complete the task with no harm done to either parties. Now go.”
Vitania was first out the door, with Tak right on her heels. Once the door was shut she heard the unsheathing of a sword, and a hard thud as something heavy hit the floor. She didn’t want to think about what just happened, even though she knew exactly what had just happened. Those who can’t be cured she knew, had to be disposed of in case their infection was contagious. It was like that in all races, even the human ones in extreme cases. She kept the Elders word and walked in silence alongside Tak until they stopped at a door similar to, and not far down the hall from Detalia’s. She looked up at his face and stared for a moment.
For a Lycan he was pretty handsome she had to admit, his face looked kind. He leaned in front of her and she saw the muscles in his forearms flex as he opened the door.
“Your quarters ma’am.”
He had a strange accent, possible a lisp, different than how Elder spoke.
“No insult? No, slang term for my kind?”
He stood straight for a moment, taken aback by the fact she was responding to him at all. “I am one of the few here who believe in equality between the races, even if you’re terrified, ma’am.”
She waited for a moment seriously weighing her next action, whether or not it would be taken the right way, then held out her open hand. It took him a second to realize when she was doing, then slowly outstretched his paw meeting her hand in a hand shake.
“Thank you Tak, you’ve been a wonderful escort. Good night.”
“Night ma’am.”
Vitania closed the door, not caring about Lycan décor she found the pyjamas laid out for her, quickly changed and herself under the covers in no time. The satin against the bar parts of her skin felt wonderful, heating to her body temperature immediately, but sleep didn’t come easily. She lain in bed thinking a long time, the nights events replaying in her mind; what could have possibly done something like that to a Lycan, and the bonds she’d made tonight with at least one pureblood Ardtrean Lycan. In her mind’s eye she had made more progress than any peace keeping Vampire out there.
When she did close her eyes, she had terrible dreams of the Lycan on the table, and wicked images of what sort of unknown creature could possibly be out there.

The flames of each torch flickered now and again, by what he assumed was a slight breeze. Not out of the ordinary though, down here in the tunnels; they weren’t insulated but he didn’t mind since he couldn’t feel the breeze if he wanted to, sometimes the downfall to being a race of the Night.
With each step came a clunking of hard rubber against stone, the sound reverberating off the wall so the tunnel to create an echo, pointing out just how empty and vast the tunnel was, how alone he was. Kynthelig walked in full Vampire form, the space where his beating heart would be aching slightly. The only upside to coming back to Ardtrea was he did not have to spend so much of his energy keeping everything hidden.
“This is quite a surprise Kynthelig”
He looked beside him to see another Vampire had appeared, matching his every step. He stood a little taller than Kynthelig, and his hair was a lighter color. Vampires did show age at a certain point, and usually more gracefully than any other species; their advantage being the little to no blood, they didn’t have to worry about their organs or their circulation slowing down since they didn’t have one. This Vampire, robed in blood red and black commander attire, was starting to develop small wrinkles around the eyes and mouth. His eyes were a more gray shade of black, and although he held his stance walking with his hands firmly behind his back, he had the smallest limp that was virtually unnoticeable unless you there when he acquired the injury.

“I did not recognize you.”
Valtin; gave a small chuckle and raised his eye brow.
“It is only regarding important matters that I surprise the Honesteade, you know how I feel about being in Ardtrea.”
“I assumed as much, it is not like you to come without summons, and so quickly after your last visit.” Valtin studied him out of the corner of his eye, “you do seem disturbed.”
Kynthelig sighed and rubbed his temples, turning his gaze to Valtin.
“Val, there are some disturbing things happening, things that even make me worry.”
The tunnel ended with a large golden-colored door, and Valtin took Kyntheligs’ hands in his.
“Whatever the reason, it is good to see you.”
He smiled a sincere smile, which Kynthelig weakly returned as Valtin opened the door for him.
“Welcome home, brother.”

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