The whites of her eyes narrowed at the sight of the lanky Velosian. A sigh carried past her lips into the wet, narrow alley. Her breath was visible in the air of the coming morning, but his was not. His chest rose and fell, just like her own, but his breath came cold as sheeted ice.
She saw that a flicker of remorse rose in his eyes.
The Velosian rushed past her. His unnatural speed could be measured by a blink of a human eye, but to her it was as slow as a human’s gait. He stood in front of her, remorse gone as his ruby eyes screamed at her to fear him. It was then that Adyra did not see him as just a young prince, but as a deadly creature. She glanced down at the grayed tips of his clawed fingernails, a trait of their kind.
“I have been watching you, Adyra. You find yourself alone not often, this I know. You choose to spend your leisure upon the precipice of our Kingdom. Why is that? ” Alexanders voice came out cynical, yet his eyes that were fierce just a moment ago, softened. His resolve matching that of a curious child.
Despite the scaling of his skin and the slithering of his tongue, she still saw the young human prince in the reptile’s eyes.
“You have avoided curfew more than once it appears.” Adyra pointed out, not entertaining his questioning. Her movements were sharp as she rose to stand taller in front of him. She did not like the challenge that was rising in his iris’. She was trusted to keep the Velosian’s in the shadows, but the shadows were falling away, and she had let one slip in between the cracks.
“Can a prince not take pride in his Kingdom?”
The snarl that rippled past her teeth rang loudly through the alley, into the primrose-colored sky.
Alexanders wide mouth twitched with amusement, gaining the reaction he had been fishing for.
“A child was born. How fitting for this to happen on the eve of your twentieth unnaming.”
Her skin crawled at his words, the cool chill of the spring air aiding in his assault.
Her unnaming; the reminder that she was just that. Unnamed. Born without family; without titles.
Alexander Dahl, Third to the Throne, Prince of Serpent. The Velosian before her was reminding her she had no true right to reprimand him, let alone voice her distrust in the echo of a snarl.
She was unnamed, as good as a bastard. Despite being one of the marked, no name would ever be gifted to her. She would always be Unnamed in Upiria, despite being one of the Lord’s greater assets.
“Yes, a boy.” Adyra’s voice barely came out louder than a whisper, feeling the heaviness of what was to come sag upon her shoulders.
“The Night prospers.” He told her with a smug glint in his eyes.
“The Night prospers.” Her reply was just a breath as she watched him take off into the shadows that remained in the early hours of day.
A small sigh fell past parted lips, one she had not realized she was clinging to. The cold was gone with Alexander and she could now enjoy the feeling of the temperature rising past freezing. Fog laid a thick blanket below her knees and dewed across her exposed skin.
Her inner nature hummed its appreciation for the lack of glowing eyes on her. Adyra struggled to cohabitate with Velosian’s, especially around a horde of them who killed for sport. It felt morally wrong to stand witness, but these were the creatures she was raised with. Some part of her was just as guilty as the ones doing the slaughtering.
She eventually made her way to the hidden entrance to the underground part of the kingdom and slipped in just as the sun pierced the veil of night behind her.
Adyra meandered through the black tunnels, her boots occasionally stepping past scurrying rats. Upiria had an intricate tunnel system under the city, with multiple entrances and exits. It had many twists and turns, as well as dead ends. They constructed it that way as their first line of defense. If one did not know where they were going; they would never find their way in... or out. There were rumors of a singular window somewhere along the edges of the cliffs, carved in desperation from a lost human. The rumored window led to a mile-long drop, straight into the depth of mystic forest that surrounded the city.
Adyra had never found it, though.
Upiria was a human kingdom, with creatures that were descendants of Velosi, the serpent God. They resided in secret beneath the cobblestone streets of the quiet and eerie city.
Adyra finally reached the end of the tunnel to the set of large doors that gave entrance to the underground castle. She knocked twice, and the door opened promptly.
“Morning, Eden.” Adyra greeted the doorkeeper. Eden nodded behind her hood in acknowledgement, hissing a reply before shutting the hefty wooden doors behind the two as the young Lupine crossed the threshold.
Adyra lowered her own hood as she strolled through the empty halls, knowing the Lords and Velosian horde were awaiting her arrival. She was always the last to come back from the hunt, having to make sure the city was reptilian free before the mortals woke up. She felt a nervous tremor in her hands begin to show and clenched her fists until the knuckles were white to subdue the anxiety.
Adyra rounded the corner into a large stone archway that led to the underground throne room. The underground tunnels had turned into quite the castle in her years here.
“Good Morning, she-wolf." Alastair greeted with a wide, mortal grin. She nodded curtly, striding up to where he sat between Casimir and Donatien. Taking a kneel, Adyra bowed her head before them.
She despised that nickname.
“Good morning, my Lords. We had a smooth hunt yet again.” Adyra announced without lifting her gaze from the marble that lay beneath their clawed feet. “There were no casualties, and no instances of over-indulgence. The mortal population remains steady, with two hundred and five residents as of last night. A child was born; a boy.”
She listened as Alastair swiftly lifted himself from his seat, the wood of the throne creaking as he moved. He clapped his ancient hands together, signaling for her to rise.
Adyra stood, billowing her heavy cloak out of the way. Her eyes lifted to meet his. She was surveying his reaction of her report.
Alastair’s lustrous stare reached Adyra’s, eyes glazing over as he searched her mind to make sure she was thorough. His hardened face relaxed into a Cheshire grin. Relief coursed through Adyra at his approval.
“Oh, how joyous! A baby boy. We must send them our regards, shouldn’t we Adyra?”
Adyra curtly nodded, monitoring Casimir and Donatien. Casimir looked bored, per usual. She knew he didn’t care for the theatrics of his eldest brother and would much rather be in the library reading through their bounty of scrolls.
Donatien, on the other hand, looked less than pleased.
He hated the new laws they had set after the war. Donatien wanted to have complete control over the city and the mortal population that dwelled in it. Alastair was privier to the conservation of humans, seeing as how the Velosian’s nearly annihilated them in the war.
“What shall we send the family?” Alastair asked Adyra, snapping her out of her dark thoughts.
Her eyes met his scarlet ones for a moment, then drifted over to Fredric who stood off to the side of Donatien. Fredric and Donatien had always appeared to have an agenda, and at times it made Adyra rather uneasy. Right now, was one of those moments.
“A crest for his future.” Fredric answered for her, his forked tongue tasting the air as he spoke.
Alastair let out a shrill, bleat of excitement. “We shall celebrate, my brothers and sisters. We have a new brother joining us.”
The gift was not really a gift at all. It was a promise, a marking on an innocent’s future. A guarantee that the Velosian kind would live on. It had been in place since before Elizabeth had been born. It was the sole reason Adyra was in Upiria, with the Velosi kind.
She was a marked one; a child born during the full moon of a hunt within the city’s walls. Her hand reached for the crest that rested above her bust, fingertips grazing the cool metal. It was only fitting that she was the one to bestow this gift upon the child. He was the first to be born since her marking, twenty unnaming day’s past next moon.
The marked ones were chosen Velosian’s, by the God’s hand himself. Or so that is what they told the horde. Adyra did not know what to think, truly. It seemed like a mixture of coincidence and prophecy, on the precipice of both or neither.
Being marked meant you were special in the God’s eyes; you were chosen for a reason. There were only a handful, and most of them weren’t much more than average. They had no special gifts, or strength. They could not shape shift easily into man from reptilian beast. Truly, they were below the born Velosian’s. Much less controlled, and entirely too volatile for Adyra’s liking.
But Adyra was different. She was special, in only one way though. She was Lupine, born to a rogue female from across the sea. She did not know much of her mother, only that she had died in childbirth. She did not even know her own mother’s name. She was born in a brothel, alone.
She had been collected by Fredric, who was sent out to deliver the crest the morn of her birth. He was stunned to see an infant Adyra, wrapped in dirty linen, frantically screaming in a basket outside the brothel door.
He had told her that story when she was eight years old, after she had shifted for the first time.
Fredric brought the newborn to the brothers, telling them the whores would not keep her, and that her mother had passed. Fredric said it was a sign from Velosi himself.
It was not until Adyra had opened her bright eyes to peer into the reptilian face of Alastair, that he realized truly what a gift Velosi had given them.
They gave them their greatest enemy and threat, as a weapon. In the form of an infant.
But infants grew.