Dragonbound: Torn--Book 3

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Anika

It seemed so dry...her mouth like a desert. Kiaran swallowed hard past the lump in her throat. Her eyes were closed tightly, nearly impossible to open them.

Her hand shot to her head as it pounded. Her hair felt different...It was soft, and only shoulder length with a curl feel to it.

With a thrill of surprise and adrenaline, she was finally able to peal her eyes open.

She sat up, remembering what had happened the previous night. Looking to her hands, her heart froze. They had no scars. Looking down to her naked chest, her tattoo was gone, also missing from her thigh and side and back.

Across the room was a mirror. She pulled the blanket around her body and walked to it. Her face was clean of any scars or tattoos. Her once raven black hair was replaced with light brown curls. Her brown eyes looked over her body. Her fingers touched her chin where a scar once was.

That scar was a crude reminder of Nathanial’s nasty history. She closed her eyes, remembering the blade held to her chin when she once refused him. Her muscles shuttered and she cringed slightly.

This new body...it was like a new, clean start. This body had no scars, had no marks. It was as if she had no past.

Tears formed, her body shaking slightly from the idea. And an all too wished for thought crept into the forefront of her mind. Wishing that one day, as her scars, her memories and nightmares would, too, disappear.

Sniffing sharply, she wiped her eyes clear of her deeply embedded misery, and continued on. She had many things to get done.

On the table were some fresh clothes. Pulling them on, she found it to be rather fitting. Simple, but fitting. It was a cream-colored dress with gold and green vest and skirt, stitched neatly.

As she was tying her brown boots on, Estiahn knocked then stepped in. “You are awake,” he smiled, “Your friends are waiting to see you, now.”

“I’d imagine,” she breathed.

She faced him and he smiled at her. His face had tight angles like the other Drakelings did. His eyes holding a sharp, cutting look.

In his hands he held a small, dark green fabric with gold stitching. “This is for your headpiece.”

He moved to her, placing it over her head and tying it beneath her hair. “Now,” he said as he held her by the chin, “You are ready, my daughter.”

He walked out the door, speaking to the others as they waited impatiently. “I will introduce you to Anika Malik, mother of Ryker Malik.”

She was hesitant to move forward, but she did. Her shoes clacked across the floor as she walked into the next room. Stella was nearest, seeing her first. Shock washed over her face, her jaw dropping slightly. Ryker stood between Stella and Petre, watching anxiously.

“She looks so different,” Stella breathed.

“Even her eyes are different,” Ryker added.

Kiaran’s body tensed, her fists tightening at her sides. She had the same body type, but a whole new face. Yet, the way she stood, her body telling the same old story as always.

The way Cyrin looked at her twisted her gut. His eyes were stuck on her, taken by her new, subtle, beauty. Returning the stare, she said, “Don’t look at me that way.” He blinked, sitting up more erect. “I am still Kiaran, so look at me as such.”

“Right,” he lowered his head in respect to his queen.

“This is incredible,” Petre breathed. “You are an amazing mage,” he looked to Estiahn.

“Kiaran,” Estiahn ignored Petre’s awe, “you must loosen your muscles. Relax and appear less...trained for trouble.”

Her body--at first--wouldn’t allow it. It seemed odd to be someone with no problems, with no past of murder or violence. Her fists opened up, her hands sitting delicately at her sides. Her shoulders appeared less confident.

The thing that struck Cyrin the most were her eyes; her eyes seemed so innocent, having a rounder shape and dark brown color. She seemed warm and inviting. He was intrigued, but tore his gaze from her. That was not who she was. She was still Kiaran Krutia.

Ryker slowly walked to her, scrutinizing her closely. He touched her hand and she flinched. Even human contact felt differently with her new skin, burning a bit like a fever. “They look alike,” Stella observed. “That is impressive.”

“This is strange,” Kiaran muttered with a heavy blush.

“In time, you will grow accustomed to it,” Estiahn said as he sat down. “Now, it is near time that you two head out.”

“What will we do?” Cyrin asked. “I told you once, Sir, that I will not allow her out of my care.”

Kiaran lowered a brow, saying, “I can handle my own, Cyrin.”

“Last time, you were nearly assassinated in our own territory,” he said sharply. “It’ll not happen again.”

There was a short moment of very heavy strain as they glared at one another.

“Well,” Estiahn interjected, seeming to not notice their quarrel. “You cannot bring your sword with you.” She narrowed her eyes slightly. “It would pose a question. Why would an innocent mother, who is looking for honest work, have a weapon or be skilled in any fighting abilities?”

“It makes sense,” Stella shrugged.

"I don't need a sword to fight anyway," she grunted.

Estiahn watched her, a flash of displeasure in his eyes. "You cannot fight. Not once," he said sternly.

“So, I believe we should follow along. Keep enough distance between us that no one will see, but stay near enough to help when needed,” Cyrin pressed.

Estiahn stared at him with a deep expression, one which held a lot of history, but was unclear. “What will you do once you reach the castle?” It grew quiet. “You cannot follow her around so easily within.” When he did not reply, he added, “You may follow her to the gates but once she enters, you should return here. I will keep you in my home until she is ready to return.”

Stella and Cyrin glanced to one another and looked to Kiaran. Her soft complexion and dark eyes were surprising each time they looked at her. “I will be fine,” she assured them, “Remember, I fought my whole life without ever touching a sword. So if it comes down to my and Ryker's survival, we've got it.”

Cyrin forcefully nodded his head, saying, “I believe you will be fine. But if something were to happen, I’d regret not being there.”

“Something will happen,” Kiaran said. Ryker stared at her uncomfortably. “It is bound to happen,” she ended with a smirk. It always did.

“It is our luck...” Stella agreed.

“Petre,” Kiaran faced him and he stiffened up. “You’ll stay here. Learn as much as you can from my father. He seems be quite skillful. Perhaps someone like him would even keep a grimoire.”

Petre lit up, nodding his head. “As you say, your Highness.”

Kiaran could feel Ryker staring at her with fear in his heart. She leaned over to him, her new hair falling to either side of her face. “Do not be afraid, Ryker. I will protect you.”

He gazed into her warm eyes and admired her soft hair. His new mother...His heart swelled as he lunged into an embrace, wrapping both arms around her neck. Her body flinched under his touch as she hesitantly wrapped her arms partly around the little boy.

He finally had a mother. That as all he could think about.

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