Nurra held Kiaran’s shoulder tightly to keep balance as she paced the halls of the castle. It had been a couple of days, and she had kept away from most of her friends. Other than Stella, she hadn’t talked to much of anyone.
Turning a corner, she nearly ran into the very person she hoped to avoid. Davin was facing her, his eyes darkened and low, his entire face looking deep and lost. Her lips tightened into a thin line, her eyes avoiding him. The only thing she could think of was the feather, and by the look on his face, she figured he knew that she realized what it meant.
Finally, she was no longer able to hold in her frustration. “Davin, I can’t,” her voice was sharp as knives. “I am not a wife o-or a mother. I cannot give you children or a happy life a husband needs. I would only bring you down.”
“Kiaran, I know what I am asking of you,” he said, his heart sinking. He sighed and ran a hand through his hair. “I would never ask you for children or to be a housewife--I know you don’t want that. I just want you to travel with me, to live with me as we work, as we fight like the warriors we both are. I need a partner, a friend to be with forever. And you are the only woman I’ve wanted to pursue at all. You are stunning, both your appearance and your mind.” He took her hand, “You are all I want and I don’t want anything else.”
“No,” she breathed, pulling her hand away.
“I wish you could understand,” he grew upset. “You need someone to fight for you. You’ve done enough fighting for twenty lifetimes. It is time someone steps in for you. That’s what you deserve. You have earned this…you deserve…” He trailed off, a bit of regret washing over him.
Nurra gripped Kiaran tightly as he eyed Davin protectively. Her face was as red as the cloth that was wrapped around her body. His hand tightened around her wrist and she grew as still as a statue.
“Please...Come talk to me.” He pushed open the door beside him, leading into the chambers Ritiann allowed him to stay in. She reluctantly allowed him to pull her inside, closing the door behind him. Her heart ran rapidly as they became alone, surrounded by quiet walls.
Nurra leapt to the back of a chair nearby, hissing lowly. “What do you want to talk about?” she grunted. “I’ve already told you no.”
“I know,” he lowered his head. “I need you with me, if only for a moment. You don’t have to say anything.”
“Are you alright?” she asked softly, concern flooding her voice. She knew he was missing Alana and many other men he had worked with. He led many men, and he likely had a strong bond with them...most of them were killed by Kiaran’s own mother. “Davin?”
“I don’t know,” he admitted. “I will be...But for now, it is difficult to say.” He lugged her wrist toward him and she stepped closer. She was reluctant at first, but fell into a gentle kiss. It was warm and made her blood rush, and for a moment the world didn’t seem so bad. He kissed her jaw, though hesitant to do so.
He stepped closer until she backed against the wall. His hands touched her arms, holding her respectfully. She held one hand to his side, his muscles flexing as he moved in a little closer. Neither of them were kissing at this point. Davin’s forehead was against hers, both of them quiet and warm.
She hesitantly touched his chest, his warmth radiating through her. His heartbeat was pounding like a drum against her hand, causing her to grow all the more fervent, yet she stood perfectly still. She moved her hand up his chest, and over his collarbones, stopping at his neck. Her fingertips lingered at the tendons...So many people had died by her hand...yet he allowed her to touch his neck. It would be so easy to kill him if she wished it.
With incredible hesitation, she leaned up and pecked a kiss on his neck. His skin was hot and his muscles flexed at her touch. Again, she kissed him, enjoying the rush that bolted through her chest. His body flexed, and her heart fluttered. He leaned into her, holding back as she pulled her head from him. As suddenly as it began, she was finished.
Though she had pulled away, she did not push him off. She leaned against the wall, her head bowed while he looked at her. She bit her reddened lips, her eyes darting about. Nurra watched her anxiously. Shaking her head, she flexed her fists, holding back a punch. Finally, she shoved him off and shuffled a few steps away. “I-I don’t know,” she panicked.
He stood still. “Kiaran--” Suddenly, she shot around and punched him dead in the shoulder. She had to stop herself from hitting him in the jaw.
“No,” she barked. “What is this? I said I had no intentions of marrying you, but you do this?” His face was stunned as she backed away. He reached up and rubbed his shoulder, his eyes remaining on her. “I do not know what to think of you,” she choked. He opened his mouth, searching so desperately for any kind of reply. “Davin, we have more important things to take care of other than petty romance,” her voice was caught. Love…It was awkward, such a strange thought. She couldn’t even say it.
“Please,” he breathed, “We do not need to go any farther, but…just stay with me tonight. Just sit with me.”
She hesitated before locking eyes with him. She noticed that somehow, his shirt was nearly halfway unbuttoned. She pointed to it, gesturing to button it. “All the way,” she demanded. He did so and crossed his arms. His neck was red from her teeth, glowing like a sunburn. She didn't even remember being so...engaging.
She clenched her teeth together and turned aside. “No,” she finally said. He frowned and she added, “You are only doing this because you’re scared.” Her brows creased as she inched toward the door. “I...am sorry, but...” Her lungs grew tight. “You’re not dealing well with Alana’s death or with...You should find something--” she cut herself short, blinking as she grabbed the doorknob. “Good night,” she bit as she left.
His lips curled slightly in agitation as he walked to one of the chairs. Sitting, he hid his face in his hands, heat forming behind his lids. He was on fire, his heart rattling his chest with each beat. What had he done? He was hasty, he was...desperate...He couldn’t lose her.
The thought of never seeing her again broke his heart. Maybe he could stay in Avestitia...though he belonged in Rishana. He shook his head. She would likely return to the Zeil...Would he stay with her then? It seemed as if they were unable to remain together no matter how much he loved her.
After half an hour of deep thought, he made his way back to the infirmary where Torin still rested and assisted the Avestitians with the wounded men. His mind jumped back and forth, not sure what was going to happen once he reached his brother. Opening the door, he made his way down the hallway and entered the massive room. The smells of oils, medicines, and blood filled his lungs.
Torin was sitting in his cot, bent over his lap where he wrote in a book of scrap papers. The hair on the sides of his head was beginning to grow in thicker. Looking up, he saw his older brother walking to him. Putting the book aside, he tossed his legs over the side of the bed so Davin could sit with him.
Davin stood at the cot, reluctant to sit. “I thought you could not read?” Davin asked.
“I have been learning for a few years now,” he replied.
“Why have you such an interest lately?”
“I am writing the tales of my journeys,” he admitted softly. He looked at his brother more curiously, noticing the redness of his neck. Standing beside him, his eyes grew nearly angry, his posture as strong as Davin’s. “Kiaran?” he asked, gesturing weakly to it.
Davin’s eyes darted away instantly as the name was spoken. “It was nothing, Torin.”
“Nothing?” he spat, “I was hit for a simple kiss, you are…red all over and yet you are uninjured…What is going on between you?”
“It is of no concern to you,” he retorted.
“Did she accept your feather?” he asked. His arms flexed as he tightened his hands into fists. “She told me she could not. How did you change her mind so easily?”
“The feather?” he shouted, “Where you spying on us?”
“No, brother, she told me about it,” he barked. “She could not remember what that meant, so I told her.”
There was no reply as they simply stared at one another. Finally noticing the trouble behind his brother’s eyes, Torin loosened up slightly.
Swallowing hard, Davin said, “Now that Alana is gone, we have no one to take Murdock’s place.”
“That…is…true,” he breathed. “Is that why you came down here?" Davin nodded. "However, before we worry about her replacement, perhaps she needs a burial.”
Guilt washed over his face as he nodded. “Aye.”
The wind was brisk, flowing through the blades of grass and white flowers dotted the field. They moved Alana’s body to a beautiful clearing, still in Rishana. Her body was rotted and half eaten by birds. The bodies were all piled in rows, the sunrays laying across them.
Ritiann stood with Davin, Torin, Stella, and the others as Kiaran placed a seed in the Alana’s hand. The queen took in the way her daughter moved, covering the body with a white, silk blanket. Nurra sat at her feet, his tail wrapped around Ritiann’s ankle.
The fighter was moving so gingerly, her eyes so sad. Resting her hand on Alana’s chest, she lowered her head and spoke softly where no one could hear. Ritiann’s eyes moved to her daughter’s comrades beside her. They were stuck on her, watching her as closely as she was. Kiaran was truly a leader, it was in her heart. She noticed Kiaran taking something from the body, hiding it in one of her hands. And as she stood, she took Alana’s sheathed sword with her.
Kiaran stood tall and faced them, lifting her chin proudly. Torin and Stella followed suit as they closed their eyes. They sang softly together, the song of good byes. Their voices were but whispers, hardly heard over the wind.
“May this seed grow as strong and powerful as you once were,” Kiaran breathed weakly.
As she walked to them, she kept her gaze away from Davin. A couple men lowered Alana’s body into a hole, covering her with dirt. It was very ill at ease between Davin and Kiaran. It seemed even more so while Torin was around, knowing what was going on between them. She knew he had feelings for her at one point and wondered how that would affect the situation.
Walking passed them, keeping her eyes forward where the dragons awaited them, she said, “Come on.”
She climbed onto the back of one of the massive earth colored dragons. They were large enough to carry three or four people. She shared the creature with Cyrin. No matter how often she would ride such a being, she never expected to become used to it. Each muscle moved beneath them as the wings pulled the dragon through the sky. It was much different from a horse. Its skin was smooth and covered in small scales, reflecting sunlight as they glided. The wind ripped through her with great power, but it was invigorating.
Soon, they were flying over the mountains of Avestitia. It was such a beautiful sight, the ice on the tips of the mountains glowing blue in the sun. Their dragons landed within the palace walls, their feet hitting the ground powerfully. Kiaran held on tightly as the impact was harsh.
Climbing off the dragon, Cyrin was already at her side, offering a hand. Her eyes immediately moved to Davin who watched her as he slid off the back of his dragon. Cyrin noticed her attention on the man and narrowed his eyes slightly. He rested his outreached hand on the dragon’s neck as she landed on the ground. She landed nearer to him than planned and quickly walked away, attempting to avoid any contact.
Her fingers tightened around the paper hiding in her fist. Alana’s sword was tied to her belt, half hidden by her long coat. She moved quickly, hoping to get to her chambers without an interruption for once.
Making it inside, she grew confident that she escaped any conversations. Just as she rushed up some stairs, Torin’s hand grabbed her by the elbow and he stepped in front of her. She rolled her eyes as she turned sideways, sighing.
“What is going on?” he asked lowly.
“You already know,” she huffed.
“Not with Davin,” he shook his head, “I mean today…with Alana.”
“What do you mean?” she pressed.
He snatched the paper from Kiaran and read it:
If I am to die before we overthrow Murdock, I request that Davin Holloway shall take my place. He is the closest to me and he knows more of my ways than anyone else.
His eyes shot to Kiaran, shock washing over him. “This is rather important, don’t you think?” he asked. Before she could reply, he continued, “Why would you avoid telling us?”
“I was going to,” she spat. “I just…did not feel like this was a good time.”
“What is really going on? In your heart, Kiaran?” his voice softened.
Her hands began shaking as she avoided his eyes. “I have a family in the Zeil, but I am now expected to take this country as my own, and--” she cut herself off, but forced herself to continue, “and Davin is going to take Rishana from Murdock. I have no idea what I am to do; I have so many things counting on me.”
His eyes were so soft, as they always were. His grip on her elbow loosened and he said, “Do what you want to do. You have lived too often for others.”
“I am sick of all of this. It is making me ill,” she moaned as she walked passed him. He followed her and she continued to speak. “You are the only consistent thing in my life, Torin, and I wish to thank you for that.”
“Of course,” he nodded. “I will always stay at your side. Whatever you choose to do, I will accept it.”
For the first time in days, he saw a smile creep onto her lips. His heart warmed as she looked to him, her smile thin. He rested his arm across her shoulders in a friendly manner as they made their way up the stairs. “Whatever you choose, Kiaran,” he added.
“You know,” she spoke softly, “we still need to add the tattoos from our battle.”
“How many for you?”
She thought for a moment, counting the bodies she had littered the field with. “Too many,” she breathed. “At least fifteen, twenty.”
“Aye,” he nodded.
“Stella needs her tattoos for becoming a Zeil as well,” she added.
“That she does,” he agreed. “She has earned it.”
Cyrin climbed the stairs nimbly after them, saying, “Kiaran, we are to teach you--”
“I do not wish to learn anything else for now,” she huffed.
“It is important,” he pressed.
“And it is important that she gets her rest,” Torin snapped.
Turning to Cyrin, she spoke, her voice empowering, “If it is your wish and my mother’s wish, then so be it.” She knew there was no escaping it.
Torin looked at her questioningly and she grinned at him as she walked away with Cyrin. He stood still, the paper still in his fingers. He crumpled it in his hand, his eyes unblinking. What was going on between Kiaran and Davin was questionable. And the thought of his brother becoming king sickened him. He’d undoubtedly be a good ruler, but...it was unbelievable.