I watched from behind the eyes of my dragon as the army of Sylphs descended upon us from above. My dragon growled in warning, suddenly tense and uneasy about the appearance of these strange creatures. And though I knew that they were peaceful beings, I also felt a sense of dread at the sight of them.
They were otherworldly.
Their bodies were oddly thin, their limbs lanky, too long for their frames. Their skin was a pale blue, so thin it was almost translucent. They were all dressed alike, with long, flowing white robes, which billowed around them like ghostly shadows.
More shocking than their strange, thin bodies, were their faces. Their eyes were much too large. I could not decipher their pupils from their irises, as the entirety of their giant eyes were as black as coal. Their mouths and noses were dainty. I could not tell the males from the females as they all had long, black hair.
They drifted towards us through the puffy clouds, their strange eyes trained on us. Apparently, the invisibility rune did not work on their eyes. They could definitely see us.
‘Stay calm.’ I urged Brenya through the bond. I could feel the anxiety rushing through her.
‘I don’t know what to say to them.’ Her soft voice whispered into my head.
‘Look within. Trust yourself.’ I replied calmly.
‘I will try.’
The Sylphs stopped ten feet away. They stared at us curiously, their heads cocked, eyes scrutinize. My dragon and I watched them closely, ready to defend our mate should they make one wrong move.
Protect, protect, protect...
Brenya, Brenya, Brenya...
Defend, defend, defend...
Brenya, Brenya, Brenya...
“Announce yourselves.” The Sylph closest to us demanded quietly. Her voice was strong, yet gentle. It reminded me of the wind itself.
I felt movement on my back. I listened to Brenya’s mind through the bond. She stood up, bracing herself on a large spike near my shoulder.
“My name...” She said firmly. “Is Brenya Avery Alemaund of the rune and elemental Fae bloodlines. I am the lost princess, the rightful heir to the Fae throne.”
The Sylph's eyes traveled up and down her body slowly as she spoke. The Sylphs behind the leader remained still, their strange, onyx eyes unblinking.
“Your spirit is strange...” The Sylph said, cocking her head to the side. She floated closer and I felt my dragons muscles tense further.
“My... Spirit? What do you mean by that?” Brenya asked, her voice laced with confusion.
The Sylph stopped five feet away. The others remained where they were. The way they stood, so still, their huge eyes still not blinking, caused my nerves to grow stronger with each passing moment. They were unsettling. They were alien.
“I can taste your soul, Elemental heir. You do not exude the distinct flavor of the other Elementals I have met. You are... different. Strange. You lack something inside.”
Brenya was silent. The wind whistled ominously as it rushed through the spikes on my spine, causing the situation to grow even more eerie and uncomfortable.
“I am the last Elemental. I was raised with humans. My parents, Knox and Eudora, marked me with a rune that rendered me human. I did not know I was Fae until a few months ago. I am still learning who I am and what my purpose is. Perhaps that is what you are sensing.” Brenya explained. Her voice was even and sturdy, but I could feel her uneasiness. She was scared.
I sent a comforting caress down the bond, brushing lightly against her awareness. I felt a small caress in response, though it was subtle. Her anxiety seemed to lessen a fraction.
“Strange, indeed...” The Sylph responded, her eyes narrowing slightly. “Who is with you?” She added, tilting her head to the other side, trying to see past Brenya.
I felt more movement upon my back.
“I am Ronan Regulus of the rune Fae bloodline. This is Marrok, alpha and leader of the western forest wolf pack.” Ronan’s voice rang out.
The Sylphs eyes moved to meet mine. Obsidian against Cerulean, we stared at each other in silence. I did not take my eyes off her. “And what is this beasts name?”
I growled softly at her insult.
“His name is Dristan. And he is not a beast.” Brenya answered, her tone laced with warning.
The Sylph was quiet for a moment, still studying me.
“Two Fae and a werewolf, riding atop a dragon’s back...” She said softly, cocking her head once again. The constant tilting motion of her head reminded me of a strange bird. Her eyes drifted back toward Brenya. “You are quite possibly the most puzzling Fae I have ever met, Brenya Avery Alemaund of the rune and elemental bloodlines.”
“Thank you...” Brenya murmured. “May I ask your name?”
“Certainly.” The sylph said, bowing her head slightly.
There was a long pause.
“Well?” Brenya said awkwardly.
“Well, what?” The Sylph responded.
“Are you going to tell me your name?”
“You only asked if you could ask for it. You never asked what it was.” The Sylph said, blinking her large, almond shaped eyes.
I heard Ronan let out a small laugh.
Such strange creatures, these Sylphs were...
“Oh... Right. What is your name?” Brenya asked slowly.
“I am Aella.” She said, curtsying swiftly. She lifted her head, blinking her onyx eyes. “Tell me what you want, Elemental heir. A display like that must warrant a strong reason.” She gestured toward the clouds below us, where the storm had been raging mere minutes ago.
“You do not already know?” Brenya responded. I could feel her surprise echoing through the bond, magnifying my own.
Aella moved a bit closer. “I know many things.”
“I seek the elemental rune.” Brenya said confidently.
Aella smiled, her sharp teeth glinting in the sunlight. “What makes you think that we have it?”
“The riddle... It led us here. You have it, don’t you?” Brenya asked, her voice growing more uncertain.
“Riddle?” Aella implored, cocking her head.
“In plain sight, yet out of reach. None may see, though all beseech. Only those to gain our speech are those who practice what we preach.” Brenya recited the riddle.
Aella studied her quietly for a long moment. “Your parents were always quite clever. I should not be surprised by this..." She paused, lowering her eyes. "Indeed, Brenya Avery Alemaund... I do have what you seek. But I cannot give it to you. I know of your cause. You will use it for war. This, I cannot allow.”
Aella began to float away from us, as if she was going to leave.
“Wait! Please, just listen to what I have to say...” Brenya begged.
She paused, turning toward my mate once more. I huffed a breath of relief when she came back, her alien face a mask of calm.
I waited patiently as Brenya explained the portal plan to Aella.
I hovered as steadily as I could with smooth, even beats of my wings. After a long while, and a detailed explanation of our plan to banish the king and his armies to another world, understanding and interest lit up Aella's face. The group of Sylphs behind her began to murmur among themselves.
I waited for Aella’s response. She must see reason... She must understand. This was the only way to end the war peacefully. She had to support it... She had to...
Finally, she answered. “Your plan in honorable. But I still cannot do as you wish.”
“What?!” Ronan blurted.
Irritation flared through the bond, from both Brenya's, and my own end.
“Ronan.” Brenya hissed. “Be silent.”
Aella waited, floating in the air like a ghost on the wind.
“Aella... I don’t understand.” Brenya said, her voice pleading.
The Sylph leader smiled gently, cocking her head to the side as she studied Brenya. “We Sylphs are pure beings. We do not lie. We honor truth, in all walks of life. You said it yourself... To gain the elemental rune, one must practice what we preach... And you do not value truth.”
What the hell was she talking about?
Anger and offense flooded my dragon, inflaming my own sense of animosity. How dare this Sylph speak to my mate this way. She did not know her. She had no idea what she valued. Who the hell did she think she was?
“I have angered your dragon.” Aella said, smiling sweetly at me.
My dragon snarled loudly, baring his teeth.
‘Calm down... Calm down...’ Brenya’s voice urged him.
“Please... You are mistaken, Aella. I value truth. I am a good person. I will not use the rune for evil. I want to make the world a better place. I want to end the war. Please...” Brenya begged.
Aella shook her head. “No. You lie to those closest to you. I can sense it. You are lying, right now, this very moment.”
A shock wave of understand and guilt crashed though the bond. Brenya immediately tried to cover it up, but I felt it before she could hide it. It confused me. What was this Sylph talking about? What was Brenya lying about?
“I... I don’t know what you’re talking about.” Brenya said, her voice quivering.
“You lie again.” Aella said, shaking her head sadly. “Lies, lies, lies... How disappointing. I have waited many years for this day to come. I expected more from you, Elemental heir.”
“Brenya...” Ronan said suddenly, his voice quiet. “Maybe you should-”
“NO!” Brenya shouted. I felt someone fall onto my back. She must have pushed him away from her and caused him to fall backward.
Ronan knew something of this?
I growled through my dragon. My anger and impatience was growing stronger. Whatever was going on here, Ronan was in on it. My blood boiled beneath my skin.
“I will make you a deal.” Aella offered, waving her hand gently.
There was a beat of silence.
“Cleanse yourself of your lies, right now. This very moment. Understand the value of truth, here, with me as your witness. If you can do that, than I will give you the rune. But only if I sense that you learn the value of truth, and the consequences of living with lies.”
Brenya did not speak for a long time. Aella waited patiently, staring at her with unblinking eyes. The others behind her were still, seemingly stone, apart from their white robes billowing around them in the wind.
My dragon did not understand what was happening. He only knew that Aella had insulted our mate. He did not fear whatever it was that Brenya had lied about. But I did. He could feel my emotions, which confused him further.
I watched Aella though his eyes, helpless and unable to speak, except through the bond.
‘What is going on, Brenya?’ I whispered urgently.
She did not answer.
‘You are scaring me.’ I admitted, letting my confusion and anxiety seep through. I felt her mentally wince in response. But still, she did not reply.
The beating of my wings was the only sound.
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh...
“Dristan...” Brenya said weakly.
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh...
“Dristan, I-I have to tell you...” She said, her voice breaking. “I have been working on making an original rune behind your back. I’ve been looking for a replenishment spell to fuse to a rune in order to restore Warrick’s wing...”
First, anger and irritation flashed though my being. It faded quickly, replaced by relief.
That wasn’t so bad... I had forbidden her from making original runes until she’d mastered recreating pre-existing ones. She could risk harming herself if she used her magic wrong. The way Brenya had reacted through the bond, I’d expected something far worse.
“There’s more.” She whispered.
I tensed as the fear instantly returned.
“I’ve been... I’ve been meeting with Ronan in secret. He has been helping me with the original rune.”
A lethal snarl left my dragon’s lips. He may not have understood much, but he did understand that. Our mate was spending time with another male. A male that my dragon hated in particular. A male she knew we detested.
Betrayal. Hurt. Anger. Shock.
“He was helping me look for a replenishment spell when he stumbled across the book about the Sylphs. That’s when he solved the rune riddle... And he learned that they had magic that could help us save Warrick’s wing.”
Denial. More anger. More hurt.
“Dristan, I’m sorry. I-I only wanted to help Warrick... I had to... You must understand.”
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh...
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh...
She spoke to me though the bond. ‘Dristan... Forgive me...’
I did not answer. I shut down.
She’d been gone until the late night almost every night of the week. I thought she’d been training. But she’d been with him. She’d been sneaking around with him.
My mate... My mate had been lying to me...
I wanted to run away, to beat the hell out of something.
But I was trapped.
I ignored her.
I felt her sorrow intensifying through the bond. Guilt and shame and sadness swirled around her, a massive cyclone of mixed emotions. She could not conquer this one so easily as she had done with the storm below.
A soft sob left her lips.
Whoosh, whoosh, whoosh...
“Well done.” Aella said, cutting through the silence. “I am satisfied. For now.”
“For now?” Ronan’s voice echoed.
I growled loudly, unable to stop myself. The sound of his voice was like a blade to my throat. It put me on edge, made my blood boil with aggression and the instinct to attack.
There was no way I would be able to co-exist with him peacefully after this. Not now. He’d ruined his chance. He was lucky I’d even given him one to begin with.
He was fucking done. Gone. I wouldn’t allow him to step foot in the Aviary after this. Not unless he wanted to die, slowly and painfully.
“Yes, for now... I will agree to help you, Brenya, in your war against the human king, so long as you remain truthful, both outwardly and with your inner self. I will give you the rune, and help you in any way that I can. But you must honor a life of honesty.”
“Yes... I-I will.” Brenya said weakly.
“Good. Tell me where your people are. We will follow you there. I will bring the rune and keep it safe until we arrive.” Aella said.
“The Aviary.” Brenya said robotically. “It is far to the west.”
“I understand.” Aella said, dipping her head slightly. “Go, my strange new friends. We shall meet you there.”
The forest floor grew larger as I dove toward it, shooting out of the clouds like an arrow.
The Sylphs were long gone and I couldn’t stand one more gods damned second trapped inside of my dragon’s body. I had to get out.
I had to scream.
I had to do something.
I had to... had to...
Kill, kill, kill...
Ronan, Ronan, Ronan...
Yes... Yes, that sounded appealing.
‘What are you doing, Dristan?!’ Brenya shouted through the bond. I could feel all three of them, holding onto my dragon’s spikes for dear life as we plummeted toward the ground.
I did not answer her.
I crashed through the treetops, breaking several, large trees apart. Branches went flying as birds screeched and erupted from surrounding trees, flying away in massive hoards.
My feet hit the ground with a deafening thump. I snarled angrily, signaling for them to get the hell off my back before I made them.
I felt them scrambling toward the forest floor, falling over my massive rib cage in a rush of commotion.
They knew I was furious.
They were right to be afraid.
In a flash of hot, golden light, I pulled my dragon into myself as I shifted. Finally, I opened my eyes and saw through my own pair. I was not trapped anymore. I was free.
My wings flared behind me as I whipped around, searching for the one person I wanted to see most.
My eyes skipped over Brenya, not giving her a second glance. I saw the hurt flash in her eyes, but I didn’t care. I just didn’t care...
Next, my eyes settled on Marrok. He backed away from me slowly, his green eyes alert, his stance ready for a fight.
But he wasn’t the one I wanted.
A branch snapped.
I whipped my head toward the sound.
He stared at me, his palms already raised, ready to defend himself.
“Dristan, let us speak of this like civilized-”
I did not give him a chance to finish whatever ridiculous sentence he was about to utter.
I roared in fury, throwing an arm at him and sending a shock wave of unforgiving force toward his body. He grunted in pain as the force sent him flying. He smashed into a wide tree with such force that it cracked in half and fell to the forest floor.
The vibrations reverberated up my legs, fueling my anger further.
I stalked toward him, my vision tinted with flaming, red hues.
There was not a conscious, rational thought in my mind.
Only the desire to kill.
He did not have time to regain himself before I reached down, wrapped a hand around his throat, and lifted him three feet off the ground.
He gagged, feet flailing beneath him, as he clawed at my hand.
“Dristan, stop!” I heard Brenya say from somewhere behind me. “Marrok! Let go of me!” She cried. I could hear her fists beating against something.
“Stay back, Princess!” Marrok urged, his tone laced with the effort of keeping her contained.
I squeezed harder. Ronan’s face grew red as his air supply was completely cut off. I brought his face close to mine, baring my teeth at him aggressively.
“I told you... To stay away... From my mate.” I hissed through clenched teeth.
“Dristan! Don’t hurt him!” Brenya begged.
I whirled to face her, Ronan still dangling in my grasp.
My eyes, crazed with blood lust, locked onto hers.
Marrok had hold of her, her back to his front. His arms were wrapped around her, caging her against him, as she kicked and struggled against him.
“If you did not wish for him to come to harm, then you shouldn’t have been sneaking around with him behind my gods damned back!” I snarled.
“Dristan, it was only for the rune! It was nothing more than that!” She said, tears streaming down her cheeks.
I stared at her.
“You betrayed my trust.” I whispered.
Her face crumbled. “I know... I know, I’m sorry! Please... Let him go.”
Jealousy and rage intertwined inside of my chest.
“You beg for his life... It is obvious that you care for him.”
She shook her head. “No... No, not like that.”
I bared my teeth. “How can I believe you when you’ve been lying to my face? How can I believe anything that you say?”
“I’m telling you the truth!” She sobbed.
“Your words hold no value without trust.” I whispered.
Her eyes squeezed shut as tears continued to fall over her cheeks.
I turned my face toward the disgusting male in my grip. My other hand joined, squeezing even harder. His face turned purple, his eyes bulging out of his skull.
“This has been a long time coming, you fucking insect.” I growled.
His eyes widened.
I twisted my hands to the side with every ounce of force I could muster...
His neck snapped.
The sickening, crunching sound was music to my ears.
I let go. His body fell to the ground, limp and useless.
I turned away as Brenya's scream filled the forest.