The Way

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Chapter One

Adyra’s body was still as she crouched on the perch of the clock tower. It was nestled high in the cliffs of Upiria, yet it barely gave a glimpse of land beyond the walls. Winter dealt her hand; the season was long and unforgiving this year. But still Spring returned. The frost could not keep her dewy mornings and petaled breezes away for much longer.

The wind whispered her secrets to Adyra as she faithfully watched over the city in its earliest hours. She drew her cloak over her head, falling into the silken woven threads that she had cherished for nearly a decade now.

Adyra’s fingers found her Serpent’s crest, tucked under the chain of her cloak. She scanned the dimly lit cobblestone streets and ancient stone walls for any sign of disobedience.

“Adyra.” A voice sneered behind her, disrupting her from her duties.

She snapped her attention over the shoulder of her cloak, locking eyes in a shared understanding with the intruder.

“Fredric.” Adyra groaned, less than pleased to see him. He had an obvious distaste in his tone, which prompted her to acknowledge him with equal apathy.

“You are dilly-dallying, it is past curfew.”

Fredric spoke so formally, yet the word dilly-dallying slipping between his lips had Adyra smirking beneath her shadowed face.

“I’m enjoying the hunt, it’s always over too soon.” She muttered. She took notice that the rise of the three sun’s dawn was just now coming over the wall. She imagined it’s warmth enveloping her with its rays, but found the feeling was not of the sun’s but of Fredric’s piercing eyes on her.

“You are wasting my time.” He said to her, his thin tongue hissing against the cool air. She eyed the Velosian, pressing her lips into a tight like at the sight of his round garnet eyes clearing the surface with a quick horizontal sweep.

She looked away.

“You have nothing but time." Adyra reminded the reptile.

Fredric blurred to stand next to her, sending a sweep of air between the two like a small tornado. Adyra’s cloak whisked around her ankles, a small chill of discomfort ran along her spine. Only small, for the remainder made her stiffen with strength.

“It does not mean I wish to spend it trotting around the city sightseeing.”

His jab was meant to be offensive, which only irritated Adyra further. She found herself jumping below the crumbling tower onto the cobblestone alleyway before bruising Fredric’s ego further.

“Then go, do what you wish to do with your time. You know I do not go far, as I am always back before dawn breaks.”

She did not wait for his reply, which surely would have been as fiery as the core of a hearth. She considered that he did have to hold some trust for her to not do anything detrimental.

Adyra pulled her cloak tighter and began a brisk walk through the streets. They were eerie and deserted at this hour, but she remained close to the shadows, nonetheless. The heavy snow was melting, leaving deep pockets of half frozen water in the dips of land all over the city.

She caught a glimpse of her reflection in one of these small puddles and paused to look down upon it. She rarely remembered what she looked like, and it was almost a shock to see a face not covered in alabaster scales. Her eyes froze on the fleshy face vibrating in the shallow water.

She was nothing short of unusual in Upiria. She had skin like the bronze of coin, that was constantly dew with perspiration from her lack of rest. Cascading black waves exploded from her scalp like a stream of ink running down her back. Despite three suns rising high above, they did not bring warmth nor intense light this far north. The folk that lived above ground here were grey skinned and pale haired, brittle and small. Drastically different than Adyra. The biggest outlier was her eyes. Colored eyes that only belonged to the Lupine’s, an inherited trait over centuries. Her eyes were canny to the sheen of green orbs from a game of marbles.

Adyra could no longer look upon her reflection, sneering at the watery image as she disrupted the water with her gait.

She scaled a building tucked behind a short alleyway, grabbing hold of a business sign to hoist herself up. She swung over the wooden mantel that sat on the edge of a flat roof, landing only with a small tap from the balls of her feet.

Adyra had ample skill in climbing. Living in a stone city carved into cliffs taught her the importance of versatility. Jumping from the edge of the roof, she leveraged herself into the air, landing on the top of the old stone gallows. They had long since been used, but still sat as a warning to the people of the city.

From there, she threw herself at the highest wall, the one connected to the draw gate. She climbed and swung, never once missing a beat of jagged rock. Swiftly, she pulled herself up, swinging her hips around to sit atop the wall itself.

She dropped her hood and sat comfortably on the thin archway above the gated ancient doors. Adyra’s body desperately craved rest. Letting her tired feet dangle over the edge as she leaned back to relax on her palms. Her gaze fell below her boots, peering at the miles and miles of trees that surrounded the small, hidden city.

“The voices will lead you awry...”

Adyra frequently heard the disembodied voices of her Lord’s in her mind. It was hard not too. They were constantly whispering in her ear, directing her...controlling her. She shook Casimir’s warning as she focused on the sky, not wanting anyone or anything holding her back during this sacred moment of peace.

She eagerly waited. Time seemed to move as slowly as seeping molasses. She fixated her attention on the break of stars at the horizon’s edge, admiring their evaporating twinkle into the rising colors of the sun’s.

Crash. Tap. Tap. Tap.

She cursed under her breath at her sharp hearing. A Velosian breaking curfew. More than angry, she continued to curse whoever was still out as she slid off the stone. She dropped to the cobblestone below with a resounding thump. This would signal Adyra’s imminent arrival to whoever dared disrupt her peace.

It was always something.

She took off in a sprint, flashing across the misting streets.

Dawn was right around the corner, and it was obvious that either Adyra took this Velosian or the break of day did. Leaping onto a short awning, she used it as a step to catapult her agile frame into the air. She collided with jagged stone and hiked her way up to the roof.

Adyra took a pause as her predatory skills homed in on the Velosian, locating him a mile ahead. The city didn’t offer him many places to hide, and she was sure they’d be figuring that out.

She caught up to the reptile with little effort and slowed her sprint to a jog before tiptoeing up to them. It was a male, leaning against the wall. His face hidden behind a dark shadow. Adyra smirked when she noticed who it was once her vision adjusted.

Alexander was the second born Prince of Upiria, who had been coveted into the secrets of the kingdom his father ruled while his older brother, Richard, was groomed to become King Dahl, Fourth of his Name. Their father, King Dahl, third of his Name, was not ignorant that half his court was made up of the reptiles, despite being cloaked with the face of men by eastern shapeshifting magic. It had been like that for years upon years. The family had been in power for nearly four hundred years. Only with the help of their immortal allies; the Velosian’s.

It was a complex agreement, that not many had the privilege to be told of.

Adyra, however, knew it all.

Upiria was formed just as the Oshiae banded together as Keepers of Peace. King Siya had led the war for the mortals against the Velosian’s almost five hundred years ago and was captured by Fredric and the Lord’s. King Siya was the first King of Upiria, and King Dahl’s greatest ancestor.

He proposed an agreement whilst under the capture of the Lord’s. In exchange for his life, the Velosian’s that ran with the the Lord’s would be able to reside underground, in their own kingdom. Above ground, the Lord’s, their inner circle of elite guards, and the royal mortal family would rule Upiria together. It was all the God of Serpent’s bidding, he claimed.

“Alexander, it is curfew.” Adyra reminded him, dropping the hood of her cloak to reveal who was hiding beneath.

She flashed her canines, widening her eyes in threat as her nature cleared through her iris’ in the form of fiery coals.

“I was hoping you’d find me.”

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