Forming a Plan and Taking a New Form
As the night grew on, everyone settled in. Kiaran and Estiahn sat quietly in a separate room. They shared a few stories, trying to get to know each other.
“I am curious, Kiaran,” he began, “How did you get your scars?”
“These?” she touched her eye, “Well, my confronting a dragon didn’t end well.”
“That’s it?” he mused as he faced her, “No heroic story about how you fought to the end?”
Inhaling, she reluctantly told him, “We were in a town and a woman’s child was kidnapped to be given to a sun god. We went into the cave to rescue her...Come to find out, the sun god was a golden dragon. She alerted us with a massive breath of flames and then she clipped me on her way out.”
“Ah,” he thought on her story.
“Do you not already know everything?” she questioned. “I thought Destines knew all.”
“No,” he snickered. “Actually, we can only know what is going on in a certain radius of time, given its importance. I’ve been here the past several years, gaining knowledge on Sterjia and setting up the country for the nearing Mage Wars.”
“Oh,” she lowered her eyes in thought.
“Now, about the tattoos,” he continued.
“From being a part of the Zeil, the tribe where wolves attacked me,” she grunted. “Why did you send them after the sheep, anyhow? It was you, wasn’t it?”
He smiled. “You are a wise girl to know it was me.” A flicker of pride glinted in his eyes. Kiaran wasn’t sure how to feel about it. It was a clashing of anger, resentment, yet happiness she didn’t expect to feel upon meeting him.
“I was testing your abilities,” he explained. “I wanted to lure you out of hiding...to show the tribe who you truly were. Once you killed the wolves, respect for the two of you doubled instantly, did it not?” She shrugged in response. “Speaking of your friend, how did your relationship grow?” His grin was widening as he watched her.
She lowered a brow, saying, “Torin? We are close friends.” She looked away awkwardly.
“I see,” he hummed. “Have you married?”
“Estiahn,” she huffed, “No. Now, is there anything we should know about Trindal-VinCar or Sterjia?”
“Oh, plenty,” he laughed at her exasperation. “There is plenty to know; I couldn’t possibly cover it all in the time we have together. But this conversation isn’t about all of that chaos. I simply want to hear from my daughter.”
She rolled her eyes, sighing. “I have told you all that I need. You’ve avoided confronting your family for long enough. What you’ve missed was your own fault,” she spat.
His expression dropped and he stopped walking. He turned his attention to the birds in the trees beside them. As he spoke, his voice was soft, yet it was not weak, “Kiaran. I do not ask for your forgiveness...for I should not get it. I suppose I should not pretend to be the father I never was to you. I’ll not ask about you nor your life. But I’ll have you know I love you, my child, as much as the moment you were born.”
She inhaled deeply, holding her breath for a second. She felt something, as if she could trust him with all her being. She felt that she could trust him more in that moment than in the first few weeks she had gotten to know her mother.
He faced her once more, saying, “I have a plan that might serve you well.”
“What might that be?” she lit up slightly.
Back in the house, they had all gathered to hear his plan. Estiahn stood before the small fireplace. The light at his back cast an ominous shadow across his front, causing him to appear authoritative. There was a power in him that seemed to glow in the embers of his eyes.
Nurra climbed up his body, sitting across Estiahn’s shoulders like he often did with Kiaran. It left her to feel empty. Now that he was reunited with his original bond, he’d likely not go back to her.
The cat sat leisurely on the table, her eyes narrow, golden slits against her pitch black fur. Even from across the room, her purr could be heard.
Estiahn gripped his fists together behind his back in a militaristic manner, his poster strengthening. “You need to get to the Mage Queen’s palace to find out weaknesses, schedules, and the best way to commence your plan. You must strategize flawlessly for Sterjia’s assassination and the release of your king friend. It is very, very dangerous.
"A small town about twenty miles northeast is gathering a caravan to head there for work. Kiaran, you and Ryker will join them in search of work within the capital.”
"Reconnaissance mission?" Cyrin cut in, despite fighting himself to obey the order of his former king. "Surely she would be recognized."
Estiahn narrowed his eyes slightly as Kiaran said, “She sent someone to my coronation.”
“That is not a problem.” Everyone shifted quizzically. “I have a spell that can help. It changes your appearance so you can create a whole new person.”
“I cannot allow her to go alone,” Cyrin said sternly. “Ritiann would have my head.”
“You are not concerned for her safety, but for your own head?” Estiahn frowned.
“He was joking,” Kiaran replied. Stella looked between them, Ryker and Petre remaining entirely silent.
“It wasn’t meant to be funny,” Cyrin grunted.
“It will appear less conspicuous if you stay behind. I cannot change both your identities, it is not within my powers. If Sterjia knows my daughter, she may very well know you as well.” He paused, “Who are you to Kiaran?”
“What do you mean?” he replied hastily.
“Are you a guard?”
“No,” he shook his head. “Well, I am of a sort. And an informer, a teacher, an adviser.”
He glanced to Kiaran who shrugged and nodded her head. “Very well, Sterjia most certainly does know you, and we can’t risk you to be caught. This job is to get you working on the inside to learn as much as possible about your enemy. This is usually done by special people, namely assassins, spies...but...I feel this would be best handled by Kiaran. Not to mention I know Vintar’s assassins have been...disbarred.”
She nodded in agreement, saying, “I can trust my own judgment over someone else’s. I’d prefer to go myself.”
“When you go to the town,” Estiahn continued, “You will tell them that your husband died and you are searching for a better life for yourself and your son, Ryker. There was nothing left for you in your old town, so you thought you would join them to the palace.”
She glanced to Ryker who listened intently. Was she the only one anxious by suddenly being a mother?
Estiahn walked to the door, opening it. By this time, it was night, the bugs chirping softly as the colder season settled in. “Come, my daughter,” he said.
She stood and followed him. Nurra walked along the ground as they moved to the back of the house. The cold air touched her skin and she thought of the winter she traveled with her companions. He led her around the house to the tub that sat near the house. Estiahn lifted two buckets off the ground and walked to the nearby spring, filling them with water.
“This will be painful, Kiaran,” he warned. “So I must ask, is there any other plan you’d rather go through?”
She was standing still, watching him from a few feet away. Thoughts moved through her mind, but she truly had no other idea how to approach it. If she knew the layout of the castle and knew the people within it, she’d have a better chance of barging in and killing her. “I think your plan is worth trying,” she finally said.
“It isn’t a plan to try, it is a plan to do. Either you do it or you don’t,” he replied.
“I’ll do it.”
She helped him pour buckets of water into the wooden tub until it was full. Estiahn disappeared inside for a moment, leaving her to sit with her thoughts.
A painful spell to alter her appearance...She'd have to behave like a regular woman. A mother, nonetheless. Everything she knew about herself would have to be left behind as to peruse a new identity.
One wrong move. One wrong word, and it was all over.
This was one of the only things which brought true fear to life. But she'd have to do it. She had to.
Estiahn returned with a small vial. Within it was something that appeared like green smoke. It shifted freely within the glass walls. Opening it, he poured it atop the water. It was like a fog over a lake, with a soft green glow. He held his hands over the smoke and he chanted softly.
Facing her, he said, “It is ready for you.” Once he turned his back to her, she stripped her clothes off and climbed into the warm water. The smoke flowed around her, never making contact with her skin. “Be sure to soak every part of your head as well, or it will not transform correctly.”
She took in a deep breath and plunged her head into the water. She ignored the terror of her memories as the cold water sloshed across her closed eyes. She tried to keep her thoughts at bay, but the lake of flesh and the monstrous spiders taunted her.
Under water, though, she couldn't gasp. Couldn't scream. She couldn't even breath.
It seemed as if something tiny was prodding at her skin, ripping and tearing at her. The tingling and prodding got worse. It turned to sheer pain, the feeling of skin peeling back.
She sat back up, water straining from her face and hair...But the water was red, mixing with blood.
Her hand shot to her face where skin was flaking away and falling into the water. Skin fell from her hands as well while new skin grew in its place.
A cry of pain whimpered out of her as her entire body shed its skin and hair. Even her eyes dropped something like scales as her irises changed colors. Her hair fell from her head as new hair began to take its place. She couldn’t see anything, her eyes blinded as they grew new irises.
Nearly passing out, she fell backward, her head resting on the edge of the tub. She breathed heavily, trying to keep conscious.
Estiahn’s hands grabbed at her arms, the blood and water splashing toward him. Her transformation was complete, but she felt like she was about to die.
He yanked her from the tub while wrapping a heavy blanket around her. Then, he carried her through the back door that led straight into a small, dark room. He laid her out on the little bed and covered her body with another blanket.
“Rest easy, Kiaran. You’ll wake a new person,” he said quietly as her conscientiousness darkened into sleep.