Bezzel and I fly outside the Horde of Venom into the heavy snow to find where Storm is helping with my mates. As I arch my wings and I fly up into the rough weather, I spot them through the red flaming blood staining the rocks.
Across the arena like plateau above the rocky cliff, where I had danced with the twinkle gems, Bezzel snoots in surprise at what we both witness. My two mates are on either side of the arena, circling in opposite directions while the one thing separating their beasty forms is their father.
Storm is the middle, blocking both of them from lunging and engaging in any contact.
Silver flies around them, calling out to them, in pain. I notice a claw sized gash running down Silver’s neck. Storm is also bleeding in places around his wings, but neither wounded parent compares to the injuries and the large gashes showing on their blood lusty sons.
Zoraul is limping around the arena with a limp tail, as if a nerve has been severed. Rawk’s tail is still twitching in irritation and pushing over large boulders, but one wing is completely ripped through.
That kind of pain was unbearable even for the most experienced Dragons. Yet, their red glowing eyes hold sway of their chosen priority. Killing one another. So they stand strong.
I notice as does Snoot-Snoot, that my mate’s eyes occasionally lose focus as they glance at Storm or Silver. It slows their pacing and they stumble, but only to glance at one another and then the red returns.
Take a scale, Storm growls at me, we have minutes, if less, to stop this fight to the death.
Understood, Snoot-Snoot, take a scale also, I order the babe and she dives first for Storm’s tail, as I simply land upon his back, gripping one of the horns, I lean down and skilfully take one of his scales.
As I do so, Storm flings me off and whips Bezzel into my direction, where we pass into the other realm.
Everyone disappears except for Bezzel and I.
I land in my human form, completely naked, covered in grey snow while gripping the grey sharp scale that Storm gave me. Bezzel also rolls in the grey fluff, now a human baby with golden streaked hair and screaming in rage at being forced to turn into a mortal.
I scramble on all fours to grab her, but a black robed figure appears instead. I halt and glance up to a surprising enemy.
“There, there,” I hear the coy tone and I look on in confusion as Sassy picks up Bezzel and swaddles her in the corner of her robe, keeping her in tight so she can’t lash out with her arms. Bezzel grits her baby mortal teeth up at Sassy as she starts to rock her, before glancing up at me with a raised brow.
“Are you the Blood Raven?” I ask, in a hiss.
“No, that’s my mother,” Sassy explains, softly, “I won’t let you take her to eternal death. To get to her, you’ll have to kill me and I’ll slit her throat...” Sassy nods down at Bezzel, who squeals loudly, “...before you even move an inch,” Sassy causes me to freeze in this Shadow Realm. I steady my hands at my sides and wait, “Or you can simply agree to a swap.”
“What?” I ask, confused, “...swap...?”
“My mother will lift the curse from Rawk and Zoraul immediately – if you let her transfer the remainder of the curse to the Legend in the Sky,” Sassy smirks.
“For what purpose?” I ask, “To kill Silver?”
“Precisely the opposite,” Sassy shrugs, refusing to explain more.
“Opposite of what? Of who?” I snap, “I will never agree unless you explain.”
“I suppose it wouldn’t play on the mind of a simpleton like you,” Sassy reaches into her pocket and brings out a knife, hovering it above Bezzel, as if she might drop it accidentally. Bezzel holds her breath and Sassy rolls her eyes,“I hate Dragons...”
“You work for one,” I growl.
“Lex? Half-Breed, completely different,” Sassy snaps, “He is more in-tune with a Blood Raven than a basic instinct driven monster.”
“Tell me what the curse means,” I snarl and Sassy grabs the handle of the knife more firmly.
“My mother is a Sprite being tormented by another Sprite, on a daily basis. Nightly, too,” Sassy sighs, “Silver’s twin, Jinx, was murdered by Storm. Due to a curse from my mother who’s family was slaughtered. In that time, I was the only survivor,” Sassy’s face flashes to show a brief moment of wrinkled, grey skin, hollow eyes and lips that are barely there. In a moment that horrible face has changed back to a young adult.
Agree, Storm snarls through my mind so suddenly, I accidentally move a mere finger, which causes Sassy to bring the knife down directly to Bezzel’s throat. Bezzel lets out a gasp and looks to me as if it’s about to be her last breath.
“Don’t. Move. An. Inch,” Sassy sweetly speaks, her hand steady on that knife, so close to a babe’s throat.
Agree! Storm snarls at me again.
Why? I whisper back.
If she kills that babe, they will create another curse just the same. Just agree, agree now! As Storm commands me, the old mage speaks as well.
“It’s not too bad, you know,” Sassy slowly inhales, “We will simply curse Storm to find Jinx in the Sprite lands and to murder her one more time. She’s been in this never ending limbo for 700 years anyway, you may as well agree. He’ll be doing her a favo-”
They will die of blood loss soon, agree! Storm’s final words pierce me.
“A-agreed,” I whisper, but just as I do so, Sassy nods and releases the baby human Bezzel.
She lets her fall, but Bezzel grabs her robe and Sassy can’t shake her off.
“Pesky thing,” Sassy goes to kick her, but Bezzel screams with such a rage before the boot connects, that she forces herself to mist into her Dragon, despite the magic, shifting between forms as she flies up and grabs Sassy’s nose with her little Dragon teeth.
I watch as Bezzel pulls and shreds until the entire nose comes off.
“Argh! It is done, disgusting creatures,” Sassy isn’t fazed by her lost nose as she nods at me while blood pours down her face. As Bezzel flies back to me, I drop the scale from my hand – which brings me back to our normal realm.
I expect to see violence.
Instead, I watch as a crowd has formed.
I can barely see anyone but I can hear Silver screaming at Storm from somewhere, in a complete rage, “Why? Why would you agree? Why, why, why?"
I push through the Horde of Venom, to find two groups huddled around the bleeding human forms of Rawk and Zoraul. They are badly mauled and broken, but I can’t reach them as I see them being picked up and taken inside – away from the chill.
“We will do our best,” I jerk around as a hand grabs my shoulder. I turn to Bezzel’s mother, with Bezzel perched on her shoulder.
I say nothing and they move off.
I watch in shock as the Horde of Venom pulls my mates indoors, leaving a few behind to witness the blood stains. Even though no one is dead, a lethal silence seems to be stripping any hope from the thin air.
I walk tentatively through a blood puddle now towards Storm, who is holding Silver to her chest in the tightest hug.
I stop many feet away, scared to interrupt the moment – but I wanted to say thank you to the legend.
I had faith in him to survive a Blood Raven’s plot of evil.
As Storm turns to me I gulp as I see his burnt golden gaze, crimson and dark, swirling and calm.
He was truly baring the curse of his sons instead.
“Take me with you,” Silver begs Storm as he holds her, but he is silent, “Please.”
“No,” Storm tries to pull away now but Silver wraps her arms around his middle and glances up into his eyes.
Storm’s face twitches as if he wishes he could say more but the curse forces his lips shut. I watch as Storm forcefully pries Silver off his giant human body. He takes one step back and vanishes.
Silver gasps and almost collapses, until she spots me waiting.
“I’m... I’m... I’m really...” I can’t get the words out as her tears of pain turn to fury.
“Why?!” Silver straightens her back.
A long silence interludes where I think the sweet woman will murder me.
But then, Silver stalks forward with a calmness that has me frozen. She strikes me across the face when she gets close enough and I just stare in shock, before she collapses into me and cries into my shoulder.
“I don’t understand,” I growl out roughly, trying to hold off tears, “I don’t understand this curse.”
“I will explain,” Silver whispers and only when she stops sobbing into my shoulder, does Silver pull away, grabbing my arm and dragging me inside.
She goes to Rawk and Zoraul and I put on my clothes, before running to the small infirmary where they are laid on slabs of smooth stone – bandages, stitches and healing herbs being rubbed all over their wounds.
They are both unconscious. My brand is slowly cooling against my back, and I know that is not a good sign.
Silver grabs her son’s hands and the Fire-Spitters work their best.
Like a coward, I stand as far away as possible, watching as over the hour, each person leaves.
Everyone, except their mother.
Only when we are alone, do I bother walking forward to see Rawk and Zoraul’s conditions up close.
I had spent the hour dealing with a numb defeat in my chest. A confusion. A consuming weakness. As if I had failed by agreeing to the Blood Raven’s terms. If I had left Bezzel behind... I could have... fought Sassy successfully. But...
“I don’t know if they’ll make it,” Silver boldly speaks, without meeting my gaze, “Their wounds... maybe only one...” Silver can’t say it, she shuts her lips and looks up at me while she still holds their hands. I can barely look at Zoraul’s pale, pale skin, ripped apart thigh, broken ribs, bruised arms and shallow breathing. Rawk’s entire right side was ripped up. Bandaged so tight and stitched all over. His face was damaged too, one eyes shut from the blood and swelling. Silver continues, “When... Storm was blood cursed by a Blood Raven to murder his family – his Horde, his mate... his new born sons were cursed too. He didn’t have to kill them. They killed each other – while Storm was forced to watch his first born’s maul one another. This is the bloody curse. The Sprite Realm... that horrible realm... requires to be cursed or a... a death, to cross over. Storm is the only one who can cross that bridge whenever he wants. He left me and now... the horror returns... and I can do noth-”
Her lips snap shut.
Silver raises her head slowly and I watch as one by one, every emotion seems to be shoved out of her mind.
I open my mouth to speak but Silver can’t seem to stay. She suddenly runs out of the infirmary with a new look in her eye.
She seemed to forget I was there at all.
She was on a mission.
What? I had no idea.
But now, my eyes flicker to both my mates and for the first time in my life, I don’t feel distance, coolness or humour.
With a broken heart, I step forward and gaze down at each one, loosely feeling their breaths leave their mouths... so shallow... so close to death.
I notice some instruments on the side of the wall and my eyes narrow.
Tubes... strange elongated needles... blood.
They needed blood.
Power potent enough.
And I knew a thing or two about hospitals. I had put enough people in them and come to gloat later on.
Without further ado, I get to work.
My hands are steady as I pierce veins on their arms, before piercing my own.
I hold out my arms and watch the blood flow from me... to my mates.
I would save their lives and then I would feel. Right now, I just experience numbness.
So, I wait.
I wait and wait, until dizzy waves hit me – over and over. Black dots appear in my gaze and then I slump down to the ground, to my side.
I pull out the needles and lay there, looking at the ceiling as it spins – as my mate’s jerk on the table.
I watch as Zoraul turns to his side, coughing up blood... and then Rawk... Rawk twitches a finger, but nothing else.
Rawk had far worse injuries after all.
I just lay on my back, unable to move. I fight against sleep to raise one very sore arm and I graze my finger tips against Zoraul’s cheek as he looks down at me.
“M-Minx,” Zoraul barely whispers it, “R-Rawk,” Zoraul gulps but can’t hold back as he tumbles off the table next to me and then spews everywhere.
I smell it but I can’t move, I watch as Zoraul forces himself up to his knees.
I watch next to the spew leaking into my hair, as Zoraul pulls himself up further and looks over Rawk’s body. Zoraul’s hands feel over Rawk’s wounds, his eyes in a frenzy.
“Wake up,” Zoraul sounds like a child as he whines, all masculinity gone, “Rawk. Brother. Wake up.”
The words are broken from Zoraul’s throat, forced out with barely any air.
But then another shock.
“My baby!” I hear another voice - a high pitched wail.
I turn my head to see Bezzel’s mother collapsed in the infirmary door way, in her hands, in her lap... a still, golden scaled beast. Snoot-Snoot’s neck is at an impossible angle as her dead eyes watch me.
I know it.
I know it without a second thought.
Silver murdered Snoot-Snoot - sacrificed her - to save her family.
I knew it.
My brand was chilly and fire hot at the same time as Zoraul was kneeling by the rock slab, murmuring nothings and everythings while sobbing into Rawk’s hand.
I had done this.
I had failed.
I had failed.
And that numbness was being shoved aside by my brain reigniting. One word flashes through my mind. Bargain. I had to.
You should curse me instead, I whisper, to Sassy, if she can hear me at all, you should curse me. Curse me. Instead. Please. Curse me instead.
I hear nothing but dead, cold, icy, silence.
I had to do better.
Bring them back and I’ll do anything.
Only a pause this time.
Anything? A happy little drawl.
Forget curses. I’ll do you a favour and then you owe the Blood Ravens a favour in the future. Sound simple enough? If you want help, I can save one of them.
One of them? Why would she mention only saving one of them?
Bezzel was dead, Rawk... Rawk was... shit.
Both, I beg.
Even I’m too weak to bring back two lives. You need to choose. My warp is up soon anyway. A few seconds at best. Choose or forever regret your silence.
How could I possibly choose?!
But the time.
“...Bezzel,” I gasp out the name in a whimper and I seem to wake back up from my blood loss delirium for a split moment when the adrenaline from my heart kicks out as I have to force the name past my icy lips.
I turn into the old spew, my heart ripping to shreds and my stomach turning, my brand turning colder and colder and colder until I throw up next.
Zoraul is roaring as if tortured.
As I’m fainting the darkness is slowly killing me.
And then I see him.
Rawk. I see him in my dreams.