Kiaran and Ryker stood near the door, Kiaran having no time to change her bloody clothes. She pulled her hood far over her face, her gloved fingers gripping the door knob. Beneath her coat, Kiaran hid her sword, attached to her belt. Nila watched them, her eyes red from crying.
This was possibly Nila’s last living day. Kiaran’s chest was on fire. This woman was laying her life on the line to save them.
The two watched Nila in silence. Ryker broke away and ran to her, wrapping his arms around her. Tears ran down her face as she held him. There was no need for words, nothing could be said to match the tenderness of the silence. They were simply...quiet.
They finally got out the door, keeping in the shadows of the rain. They crept silently, watching as the town sat silently. Only guards walked the streets.
Kiaran kept her mind open to Lirra's connection, seeing the field from the dragon's point of view. She was nearby and Ryker had to stay with her so she could effectively maneuver the city.
A group of guards ran through the open gate. Kiaran grasped Ryker’s shoulder and shoved him low as she crouched with him. They hid beneath some shrubs, waiting as they darted for the house. Kiaran was hardly able to breathe and she could see Ryker nearly ready to go after them. They had to move forward or they would die.
The sounds of their swords and shouting shook Kiaran’s insides. Ryker’s eyes swelled with tears as they moved into the streets of the town. She pulled Ryker down the narrow street, the buildings close together and standing tall. They kept to the shadows, taking each step with caution.
She took one more step and a few guards rounded the corner. Everyone froze, staring at one another. The men drew their weapons and Kiaran yanked the boy down an alley. The soldiers were much slower, their armor weighing them down. However, they were able to follow after her, shouting.
If the other guards in the streets heard, they, too, would be after them. They couldn’t take on a small army on their own. Kiaran grew restless to find a quick exit, when--suddenly--a pair of hands grasped her by the arm. He dragged her between a couple buildings, the walls only feet apart. The shadows engulfed them and the soldiers rushed by.
“Why are they after you?” Brinden’s voice filled in the darkness. It was a gruff, sharp whisper.
Kiaran pulled her hood farther over her face, keeping her head low. “If you haven’t realized...I’m not who you think I am,” she answered, harshly, keeping her face from his view.
“What do you mean?” he huffed.
“We don’t have time for this,” Ryker cut in. “Worry about Britta and we will worry about ourselves.”
He looked between the two, his brows low. “They are going to arrest me," he said. "They've already tried."
Kiaran lifted her silver gaze to him and he was shocked. Her face was completely different--not even her eyes were the same color. Her face was wiped clean of blood, though some of it crusted along her hairline and her jaw. “Why will they arrest you?” she asked.
“Anika?” he breathed. She continued to stare at him and he added, “I’ll be arrested because I am going to protect both of you.”
Kiaran’s stomach twisted. “Thank you,” she whispered.
It took a moment, but he tore his eyes from her. Pointing behind himself, he said, “Take this way until you reach a wall. Follow it south and you will get into the woods that we traveled to get here.”
The woods--that was where Lirra could find them. Better than searching for the field.
Kiaran nodded and began to leave. Brinden put his hands together and bowed his head to her, saying, “Good luck, Anika.”
“It’s Kiaran,” Ryker corrected as he walked by. He watched after them as they darted through the shadows. They moved with grace and in complete silence. Who were they?
A few streets away, they rounded a set of houses. In the distance stood the stone wall. There it was; if only they could reach it without being seen.
Kiaran’s ears perked as a foot stepped on the stone behind them. Her heart shattered. They were found again. Spinning around, she wasted no time in pulling out her sword.
Kiaran’s heart dropped and she froze. Standing in front of her was her older brother. He looked wild, his brows drawn low and his hands each gripping daggers. Blood stained his body, his long hair sticking to his face, loose from its tie. Soot and burns marred the skin of his hands and the cuffs of his sleeves. He looked nearly dead.
“Father?” Ryker choked out.
His eyes moved to his son, but he spoke to Kiaran, saying, “This is not where I asked you to take my son.”
Ryker’s expression dropped, his little heart breaking. Kiaran grasped his shoulder, her fingers gently gripping him. The boy took a step toward him, his voice broken, “Dad? I-I thought you were dead.” She gripped him more tightly, keeping him in place. Was this really her brother?
“Do you realize what they do to mages?” he continued to ignore his son. “Even worse, he is a healer. You put him in great peril.”
“Dad,” he cried out, trying to dart to him, though Kiaran held him in place. “I thought you were dead!”
His eyes moved to Ryker, his little dragon clutching the collar of his shirt. Pointing a dagger at him, he spoke with a very stern voice, “Stand still, Son.”
He froze, tears swelling behind his lids. Kiaran stepped between the two, her body tense and her stance powerful. “You will treat your child like this?” she asked.
“He should not be here!” he howled.
She glared at him, seeing every difference in her brother. His eyes read something different from before...Whoever he was before, was gone. He died and something else was born.
“What happened to you, Brother?” she asked, her voice weaker than her eyes.
“That doesn’t matter,” he spat.
“Father,” Ryker breathed. He gripped Kiaran by the arm, looking around her body. “What has changed?”
His eyes lingered on Ryker for a long moment. “Very much has changed. I want the world to get over this war so you can have a life of normalcy,” he said. “I am starting the war early so it will be over with earlier.”
“No,” Ryker cried as Arrimen took off, running with his back to them. He stretched an arm toward his father, Kiaran holding him back. “Father! Please do not do this!”
Kiaran pulled him, her chest burning. “I’m sorry, Ryker,” she breathed, “We must go, though.”
“I--I know,” he choked. His brows were dug low, tears streaming his face.
Once they reached the wall, Kiaran placing her hands flat on the stone. She could feel her fingernails growing in the rest of the way, ripping at her skin. The rain covered everything in a light sheen as the few torches glowed upon them. The grass was tall, stretching to her knees and bending in the wind.
Ryker watched her as she rested her forehead against the cold stone. He felt so empty, and yet his body was heavy. His head ached and his heart throbbed.
Out of no where, his stomach began aching. He gripped at it and pain surged through his chest. Gripping at his heart, he doubled over, whimpering. He could feel something like frozen hands squeezing his heart. He had to fight it.
Falling to his knees, he grew pale. Kiaran rushed to him, but he ignored her. He had to focus on keeping those hands off his innards. It felt like someone was stirring up his guts.
“Ryker?” she knelt beside him, “What’s wrong?”
His face lost all color and sweat covered his face. He was breathing quickly and shakily. His hands squeezed his stomach and chest.
“Tell me what’s going on,” she demanded, her heart shattering. Sterjia was killing him. She had to get him as far as possible.
She pulled him into her arms and darted along the wall, following it along the treeline. He whimpered again and her arms tightened around his body. How could she possibly save him from something she couldn’t see to fight?
She ran faster, seeing the end of the wall in the distance. “Ryker, you’ll be fine,” she panted as she took off at full speed.
Darting through the exit, she carried to boy into the woods, far off the road. Deep enough into the woods, she came to a stop and laid him out on his back in the muddy pile of leaves.
He bared his teeth, his body quivering. She placed a hand over his little one that gripped at his chest. “Please, god, help him,” she breathed, “I can’t do it...”
His breathing grew heavy and slow, as if it was difficult to keep up. “No,” she whispered. Blood began to line his lips and tears grew behind her eyes. “You can’t do this, Ry,” her voice quivered.
Ryker let out a loud growl that led into a howl. Something exploded from his body in a hiss of air. Hot and cold air whistled past. Sitting up, he gasped sharply, his eyes ripping open.
Looking to Kiaran, he nearly began to cry. She grasped him by the shoulders and waited for him to say something. “Mom...” Tears filled his eyes and her heart shattered. “Kiaran...she almost got me,” he forced a smile.
She wrapped her arms around him and held him tightly to her chest. “I thought you were going to die,” she breathed, “What happened?”
“I fought her off,” he said weakly. “Now...I am tired.”
Her hands tightened on him, holding him closely. She was so thankful that he didn’t die. Finally, she loosened and he sat down, watching her.
“What is next, Kiaran?” he asked.
Her gaze was on her hands that folded in her lap. They were weak and trembled slightly, her heart aching. Slowly, she turned to him and said, “I save Davin.”
Before anything else could be said, there was an explosion far back in the city. The ground vibrated beneath them and they turned to face it. Black smoke rose above the orange flames. As rain fell, the water looked like small drops of magma.
“And the world...” Ryker breathed.
She watched him, his eyes tearing again. Was Arrimen dead this time? Kiaran’s eyes softened and she tried to stay strong for the boy’s sake.
She looked to the little boy as he stared at the smoke in horror. His little hand grabbed hers and he squeezed. “Let’s go,” he said.
She lifted him in her arms once more and they made their way to find Lirra--and if she couldn’t find her, she’d find Estiahn’s home first.
After about an hour of wandering, she finally was able to contact Lirra mentally, "Come Lirra! Ryker was injured, I need you to take him to my father’s home.”
Moments later, the dragon slinked from the trees, the rain running down her scales. She lied on her belly, allowing Kiaran to help Ryker onto her shoulders, She wrapped the ropes around his ankles and wrists so he could hold on. Then, with a softer rope, she wrapped it around his waist to keep him in place.
“Tell the others to go straight to Vintar. I’ll meet youthere. Lirra,” she turned from Ryker to Lirra, adding, “Contact Ruthianna to come for them. But I will still need your help tonight.”
The wind pelted rain against her, even at the distance that sat between her and the city. The dragon lowered her head and said, "Of course, Uvarasor. Keep safe." With that, she carried Ryker off into the sky, whipping air and water and loose leaves around.
Kiaran watched as they disappeared into the dark storm. Her stomach twisted and her heart leapt. Inhaling deeply, she turned and started for VinCar.