The air was still, the heat from the lava radiating on Kiaran’s back as she faced the entrance of the room. She had removed most of her armor, standing barefoot on the hot rock. All that remained was her fur-lined vest and deep purple shirt beneath it. A matching skirt flowed down her legs, parted on the sides.
She wore gauntlets of black metal and chainmail hung overtop her skirt. The silk gifted from Davin was wrapped across her head, keeping most of her hair from her face, her horns standing from beneath it. Her long braid was resting down her spine between her wings. Her large, beautifully built sword was strapped to a belt around her waist.
Her talon-like hands were to her sides as her bright eyes looked through the darkness, though she could see rather well compared to her human eyes. Kriettor…The First…the powerful. Kriettor was everything, the beginning. Without looking to him, she said, “Why is it that you had named me?”
“You were mine,” his voice trilled across the air and through her mind.
“Was I the only babe?”
“There was something within you, searching for love, for acceptance, for faith. Or rather it was I who needed such things. You were willing to give me everything. So innocent and charming. I could not help but connect with you,” he answered lowly. “It is all still within you, Kiaran. Pure love. You will never seize to be who you are.”
She slid her tongue over her extended canines, the taste of blood still in her mouth. Planting her feet sternly, she reached her hands out, touching her fingers to the stone doorway. Black roots ejected from her feet and hands, crawling across the stone.
She closed her eyes, listening to the forest around her. Animal feet pattered, their minds racing as quickly as they rushed about. Her vision grew clearly as she saw the trees reaching toward the clear sky.
Her sights moved passed the mountains of Avestitia and over the waves of the ocean to the lands of Rishana. The blades of grass blew passed her eyes as she rushed to the castle with the wind. Her sight flew high into the air, viewing the fortress. Soldiers marched the streets and bells rang continuously. The only reinforcements within sight were the Avestitians as they neared the walls. Their numbers, though, were low.
It was concerning, seeing as how night was weighing in and no armies were at the City yet.
She could see Brick easily; narrowing in on him she noticed the Holloway brothers. They crept through the streets near the soldiers, just behind their backs. Walter, and a hand full of men with him rushed the streets in rags. One of the soldiers turned around, shouting. Her heart raced and she gasped.
Her roots shot back within her as her chest filled with stone. Looking to Kriettor, she sighed heavily. “They need my help, Kriettor,” she said, finally.
Closing his large eyes, he exhaled deeply. He stood tall, his roots retracting inside. Stretching his neck and wings, he swayed his tail to the side. “I am a bit tarnished, but I shall enjoy the flight,” he said.
“You are going?” she questioned.
“You are here to protect me, and I you,” he replied. “We shall prevail together. It is meant to be...I have made the mistake once by sending him alone."
“Yes,” he slowly nodded his head. Lowering his head to her, he asked, “Are you ready?”
“Absolutely.” She climbed onto his head, gripping his crown tightly. She stood on his neck, her feet gripping his broad, rough scales.
Reaching up, he broke away the stone and dirt with his mighty talons. The fresh air blew passed them and inside. Then, he tore his way through the earth into the darkening sky. His wings beat heavily, carrying them to the clouds. Her wings were pressed tightly against her back as she gazed about them.
“Are your wings yet dry?” he asked.
She nodded and she could feel his chest rumble with a laugh. Hesitantly, she began to open her wings. As the air caught her, she brought them back in, grasping him tightly. Her entire body flexed, keeping herself in place. Again, she tried and her body was snatched from Kriettor, carried far above him. The wind carried her easily through the air, her wings nearly keeping her at an acceptable pace of gliding.
She grinned as she brought her wings in slightly, sending her body twirling toward the earth. Stretching them out again, she was thrust upward once more. Laughing, she beat her wings to catch up with her dragon.
The soldier shouted as he laid eyes on Davin and his comrades. A strong wind heaved at them, nearly shoving each of them over. Fighting the gust, he and the others jolted away, rounding a house in an attempt to lose the soldiers.
Rather than finding a place to hide, they ran straight into another group of men. Without a second to spare, the first man grabbed onto Davin’s helmet. As he ripped it off Davin, he threw it aside, landing a hit on his face. Davin fell to the ground from the ambush. The man let out a short, scared laugh. He landed a hit on Davin Holloway!
There was nearly no time to react as Brick swung his ax through the air, taking down as many people as he could. Davin forced himself to stand back up. A sword flew toward him, slicing right down his arm, reaching his elbow. Somehow, it had ripped through most of his chainmail sleeve, though the blade bounced off the bracer on his forearm. As he gripped his wound, he was kicked back to the ground. Before he was aware of it, they were all being dragged across the ground.
His muscles ached as he squirmed in the soldier’s grip. He had fought all day, ran all day--his body couldn't handle much more.
Once they entered a tall gate, he was tossed to the ground, dirt filling his lungs. His brother fell beside him, barely conscious. His gaze moved to the massive, wooden walls about them. They were unfamiliar; a new structure as a result of Murdock’s paranoia…his obsession with survival. The moon was above them, the sky streaked with thin clouds. The sun had nearly disappeared, the sky a dark blue which faded to orange.
Where were his armies? No one was within view. All they could see were a few plumes of smoke from the dragons. But even most of them were shot down. Sitting up, Davin laid his gaze on the king. He grinned at Davin as he crossed his arms over his chest.
“You have returned,” he mused. “And you seem to be doing such a wonderful job.” His eyes narrowed as he refused to reply. King Murdock walked to him, saying, “You are running out of time.”
He could not bring himself to say anything as his eyes darted between the warriors around them. Panic slowly became aroused within him as he tightly closed his eyes. Murdock kicked his chest and he fell onto his back. Torin slowly pushed himself up, watching.
“You are his brother, no?” he questioned, facing him. Torin lowered his brows and spit at the king’s feet, blood mixed in it. “You are nothing to me, and you will die.”
“You cannot convince me of that,” Torin retorted.
He watched the sky as it grew clouded and the air coagulated with fog. "Oh?" he reached over, grabbing Torin by the throat. He tried gasping passed his closed throat, his heart thudding.
One man began convulsing, falling to the ground. Saliva flowed from his mouth as he groaned in horrific pain. Murdock and his men turned to him and another began screaming and scratching at himself, tearing at his skin. One man became possessed and attacked the other standing by him.
Turning back to Torin, Murdock growled, “How are you doing this?”
“I am not,” he grinned smugly, despite the lack of air he was receiving.
He threw him and drew his sword, shouting, “Tell me, boy!”
Murdock slammed the hilt of his sword across Torin's face. He tumbled to the ground, hardly awake from the hit. Blood blossomed from the rip across his cheekbone.
"Stop it," Davin tried to order.
Murdock laughed maniacally, his wide, fearful eyes looking to his soldiers as they continued to hurt themselves and each other. Then, he stomped on Torin's chest.
Flames lit up the city just outside the fortress's walls. Cyrin and Lorelei led the innocent people out of the city and into safety. Many of the Chastin shouted and chanted excitedly as they leaped out of hiding, cutting down soldiers.
Cyrin looked up just as a wolf lunged through the air, slamming a man to the ground, ripping at his flesh. Crows stabbed at men with their beaks and talons. Kriettor was controlling the animals, creating a rather large commotion. It was unexpected, but very happily accepted.
Stella and Raven rode their horses through the streets, easily removing limbs as they passed the men. Reaching the town square, they nearly stomped on a wolf as it lunged at a man. They were late--it seemed most of the fighting had just begun, however.
Suddenly, something fell from the sky, landing on the ground with a great crash. She stood tall, her wings folding behind her. Kiaran slowly lifted her head, her pointed ears aiming toward the heavens and her curling horns reflecting light with a terrible grace. Raven watched her in awe and shock. She could easily recognize her, and yet she was not herself at all.
Kiaran drew her large, beautiful sword. Her eyes were stern and unwavering as all attention was on her. Moving forward, she aimed to reach her comrades in the walls not but yards away. She could see the smoke-like fog licking at the clouds just above them.
Finally, the soldiers aimed to attack her, launching arrows at her from atop the stone walls. Swinging her sword at them, the blade shoved wind at them, knocking them back wickedly, the arrows splitting everywhere. Others ran at her and she lifted her hand at them, the earth moving with her motions. Stone from the sidewalks burst in a line toward them, exploding as it reached them. The shrapnel shredded them.
She came to the tall, heavy door. Taking her bare foot, she kicked it, slamming the entire door to the ground which sent a great gust of wind through the air, carrying dust with it. Davin and Torin sat on the floor, holding their wounds. Many of the men were dead within or were screaming and rushing about like madmen. She laid eyes on Emmet as he stood directly behind Murdock. He grinned, nearly ready to kill him.
“No,” she demanded. Emmet looked to her, as did everyone else. Nodding, he faded away. The fog lifted slightly, as the indistinguishable spirits hovered just above.
Murdock’s eyes were horrified as he stared at her. “You are an evil man,” she said smoothly. “What makes you believe you must live? You have nothing good to deliver. Do you wish so badly to spread your hatred across the lands and destroy lives and kill for treasures?”
The panic in his eye was thrilling. She continued to keep his attention as Davin slowly stood. Kiaran neared Murdock who readied his sword, rotating with her, keeping her from his back. With his back now to Davin, he was able to slink back and silently snatch up a sword. Torin remained on the ground, nearly beaten to death from his quips.
Warriors began storming their way in and Kiaran grinned, “You do not seem to understand, it is in my blood to destroy. I was brought up in death.”
Murdock turned, racing into the walls of his castle. Looking to Davin, she nodded. He took off after him as she faced the army heading toward her. She lifted her sword, slicing through the meat on the men’s bones like they were nothing.
The spirits shifted above them restlessly. Shooting out one at a time, they forced themselves into the men. Through their eyes, noses, mouths, and ears they sent men to their knees, screaming in agony.
The soldiers and guards continued to flood in. Her abilities began to grow stifled, unable to attack the massive amount of men without injuring her allies. Looking over, Brick rushed to Torin, lifting him and pulling him away, his feet dragging behind him as he tried to hold himself up.
Her brows lowered and her eyes narrowed as she faced the enemies that swarmed her. Her enlarged canines gleamed in the sun as she grimaced. Lifting her wings, she batted herself into the air, the wind staggering the men around her.
Davin reached the throne room, finding Murdock alone. The king stood with his sword in hand and his eyes as wide as dinner plates. He looked mad--crazy as ever. He faced Davin and wasted no time in attacking. Though Davin was an impressive fighter, he was badly wounded and caused his abilities to weaken.
Swing after swing, King Murdock tried hacking at Davin, but they were each blocked. Finally, Davin used Murdock’s own technique against him. As the madman swung, Davin stepped out of the way and landed a strong blow across his back. The king fell to his knees, blood pouring out from the deep rut in his skin.
“You are a wicked man,” Davin growled, regripping the sword at his side. “You and your father before you. Killing your own country for coin. For...prestige. You disgust me. A waste of living flesh.”
Murdock let out a chilling snicker. His hands shook as he held himself up, blood dripping down his arms. “You’ve got more tongue than balls. You going to kill me, Holloway?”
Before he could reply, Murdock drew out a knife and stabbed it into Davin’s thigh just above his knee. The fight was yet to be over.
Suddenly, Kriettor smashed through the air, taking out one of the walls beside Kiaran. Lowering his head, he roared so fiercely that it shook the remaining walls. His hot breath melted anything near him. Many of the men turned and ran, the others remaining to fight like their ignorant king.
Kriettor used his tail, thrusting several men away, most of them falling dead. Kiaran escaped the battle, finding that it was taken care of. She walked through the door Davin and Murdock went through.
The fur hanging with the armor around her legs swayed softly as she climbed the stairs. Her stature was secure, strong, and yet relaxed. The blood that drenched her body accented her silver eyes as she kept them forward, following the blood trails on the carpets. Her grip on the sword tightened as she neared the throne room.
Her heart raced as she moved farther away from Kriettor. Her emotions were beginning to swarm her. Her wings retracted into her body and she nearly fell to her knees. She grimaced and waited as blood coated her back. Finally, she stood and continued. Pain pulsed across her shoulder blades.
Entering the barricaded throne room, she flexed every muscle in her body. Her gaze landing on Murdock, she narrowed her eyes. Her hair was matted with blood as it fell from its braids.
Davin stood, facing Murdock who was drenched in his own blood. However he was staying alive, it was a miracle. The two men were both in awful shape, but neither of them gave up. Davin regripped his sword, giving Kiaran no attention. Murdock kept his eyes on his current enemy, knowing that he would be killed soon.
“I always knew she was a monster,” Murdock grunted a short mockery.
Without a moment’s pause, Davin lunged forward and stabbed his sword straight through Murdock’s torso. Laughter burst from within the king’s chest, blood following shortly behind.
She stared quizzically at the madman. He fell to the floor, death tugging at him. He seemed he wanted to die. The paranoia of survival got to him and he craved death, once and for all.
After watching him, being sure he was dead, Davin slowly fell to his knees, hardly able to breathe, let alone hold himself up. He watched Kiaran as she stood still, her shoulders straight, her sword held at her side.
Murdock’s blood ran off the tip of his blade, mixing with his own on the polished floor. With her free hand, Kiaran wiped at the fresh blood on her cheek, only smearing it in further.
She moved to his side and wrapped one of his arms across her shoulders. She eyed Murdock's dead body. Pulling him to his feet, she spoke softly, “Come, King Holloway, it is time to take your throne.”
The few stairs up to the seat seemed to take an eternity to climb. Finally, she sat him in the large chair covered in gold and carvings. She leaned over, using a thumb to wipe blood from his mouth. He peered into her eyes as she looked him over.
He flaccidly placed his hand on the side of her neck, his thumb touching her stained cheek. She moved her hand to the side of his head, his hair tangling in her talons, she pulled his head forward as she kissed his forehead. Her lips were like fire, and yet they were so inviting.
She pulled away from his hand and kneeled at his feet. She touched one hand on his knee, lowering her head and closing her eyes. “You shall rule on, Davin,” she said. He weakly moved his hand to hers, grasping it tightly. He opened his mouth to speak, but she interrupted him, “You are too weak, just rest for now.” With that, his grip tightened on her hand and she closed her eyes firmly.
Brick aided Torin into the room, interrupting them. Raven and Stella also barged in just after them.
"Davin--" Torin growled, pain in his voice. Kiaran faced him and a look of relief washed over him. Then, he grimaced, his battered face twisting.
“It’s the Zeil,” Raven breathed heavily.
Brick sat Torin beside the throne, beside his brother. Torin rested a hand on his brother’s forearm, holding it tightly. Looking to him, they both appeared so battered and weak.
Kiaran faced Brick and he said, “They are in the prisons.”
She raced down the stairs with them into the dungeons of the castle. Brick led her passed the nearly dead prisoners and into the deepest of the ruins. Finally, they came across a small number of familiar faces. Brick took hold of the door and lifted it off the hinges, tossing it aside. Raven raced into the cell, holding everyone tightly as she kept herself from crying.
“Where are my children?” she whimpered.
Tonna called for her, her voice weak and sick. Narhlo rested with his head in her lap, coughing. Racing to them, she slid to her knees, holding them as she wept.
Looking over everyone, Kiaran recognized Lianna, whose belly was shrunken. She held a bundle of blankets, a small baby within it. Brick pulled back the fabric to see the child’s face. He proceeded to say that it was a miracle the child survived.
Kiaran continued looking over them, seeing that Kane was no longer with them. “Where is Kane?” she asked. Everyone looked to her in silence. “Where is Kane?” she demanded, her voice booming.
“I-I don’t know,” Lianna sobbed. “They took him away, deeper into the darkness.”
Dread filled her heart as she stepped back, looking down the long tunnel. Without a thought, she darted down the hall, running at full speed. The torture rooms were rumored to be so deep that not a sound could be heard from the surface of the city. Not a soul could hear for many, many layers of the prisons.
Her body moved faster, her horns now retracting back into her skull. She crashed to her knees from the sudden jolt of pain, grasping her bleeding head. Even her arms had shifted to their original form. Finally the pain subsided and she stood and raced on.
The hall ended with a single wooden door with metal bars over a small window in it. Coming to it, she lifted a foot and smashed it down. Several men stood between her and a table. They turned to her in shock, holding various weapons, covered in blood. Startled, they began to attack her, however, she killed them easily, tossing them aside.
Looking to the table, her heart nearly was vomited from her chest. Kane was tied down by black chains which dug into his wrists, elbows, ankles, and knees. His body spit blood out of deep wounds to the ribs and stomach. His eyes met with hers, his hair matted to his face in blood.
Running to him, she nearly fell to her knees, holding her hands on him. “Kane, I am here,” she said shakily.
She ripped the chains from their bolts on the table and threw them aside. Pulling him up, she pulled one of his massive arms over her shoulders. Wrapping an arm around him, his blood soaked her clothing. He stared at her pointed ears and dagger teeth as she grimaced, pulling him down the hall. “I am still me,” she told him.
His head dropped as his eyes rolled back and forth. He tried to keep his head up, but was unable to. “Kane,” she demanded, “Fight it for just a moment longer. We are done here. Murdock is dead and we can go home.”
He gripped his large hand on her shoulder as he stood on his own feet. Looking to her, he wiped blood from his mouth. “Thank you.”