I hold the wood of the left corner bed post, my other hand over my mouth as I try not to laugh at the two princes. I watch my mates snore and unwittingly lie together in an embarrassing state. Thaddeus’ hand is on Sylvan’s thigh and Sylvan’s hand is on Thaddeus’ chest in an innocent accident, a consequence of their large forms and a bed not big enough for two of them sprawled out completely.
The side effects of my magic weren’t just temporary on my mates but it seemed to have long lasting effects. When my mates exited the bathroom last night, I expected them to be in a typical rage. However, both Sylvan and Thaddeus looked a little pale and exhausted. Without a word, Sylvan and Thaddeus fell asleep on the second bed, within seconds that they lay down after I had just tucked myself into the other guest bed.
It helped me relax into a deep and long lasting sleep knowing they were out for the count.
Now, I watch them with a smirk and a half, knowing that when they awaken they’ll probably get quite a shock. Their hands were on each other, not their princess. I stop breathing for a moment as Sylvan rolls from his left side to his right and I wait for him to open his eyes... but he does not.
Now, I tip toe out of the room. Wearing nothing but the cotton robe from before, I decide to head to my bed chamber and retrieve my normal clothes. So, I exit the guest room and head up to the Royal Chambers. I go into my room at the end of the long cave corridor and I stand in the entrance letting out a sigh of relief. Although the chamber is a mess with the sheets and pillows thrown about... Minx and her friends are gone. And I am happy I have returned.
I get out my usual fighting gear. Black leather pants and bra. I also brush my hair.
Then, I make my way out of my bedchamber and stop by the first door about fifty feet from my own. I see it slightly ajar. It was Adara’s room. Mason and Darren also resided in here. Considering Adara’s taste for constant sexual interactions... it was safer to stay out of her cavern.
However, if the door was ever ajar, it was okay to assume it was safe to enter.
“...hello?” I knock on the door three times and I hear laughter from multiple people on the other side.
“Come in, princess,” Adara calls out and she sounds distant but I smile and swing open the door to find her bedchamber looking as neat as ever. The purple bed was made up with twenty or more pillows, a huge fire place was lit, as always, a wall of... toys and weapons... and... a huge wooden table set up further down outside the bedchamber where the cave opened up to her own private ledge.
At this wooden table, Adara sits with Mason and Darren either side of her and on the opposite end I see Darshan and Layla.
Darshan was Maddie’s old slave friend, he was blind but funny as all hell. Layla was the youngest of the senior Royal family but related to Hael, Lochness and Adara distantly. She was known as their baby blue scaled niece but I think she was a little more distant than an actual niece. Layla smiles as she sees me and Darshan looks up the same time as his mate, as if he can feel Layla’s eyes on me.
“Come join us, Luv,” Layla shuffles along a bench seat to make room for me and I happily stalk my way over and take a seat next to her.
“Why did you cut your hair?” Darshan asks and I freeze in my seat as I look over at him smirking.
“You can’t even see it,” I whisper, “What the hell?”
“Everyone’s talking about it,” Darren smirks also, “It’s ugly.”
“Thanks?” I reach over and grab a warm roll of bread and bite into it while red-headed Mason gives me a sympathetic smile.
“It looks like a nice change,” Mason grabs a plate and gives me some eggs and bacon too. I happily take it from him and Adara assesses me while twirling with her own purple perfect amethyst hair around her finger.
“What I want to know,” Adara picks up a knife and points it at me, “Is where is your brand?”
“Why does everyone keep asking me that?” I growl as I rip open another warm roll and put the egg and bacon in the fluffy confines before closing it up and munching into it. Everyone goes quiet and glances at me with equally shared funny looks.
“It’s like Madeline and her mates all over again,” Darshan teases me, “Stop getting food all over your face, it’s unbecoming of a princess.”
“Stop pretending you can see what I’m doing,” I speak with a full mouth while egg yolk runs down my chin. They all laugh at me and I roll my eyes but continue to eat fast anyway. I was famished. I also felt pretty at ease with this lot... mostly... but usually I wasn’t asked so many questions. I decide to change the topic of conversation, “Why are my parents not here eating with you lot?”
“Something important in Deep Cavern,” Darren explains, “Well... another petition to get Minx out of the mountain. An old respected slave went missing yesterday and the slaves are furious.”
“They have every right to be,” Mason is in support of the rebellion while I chew and pretend I don’t know what they’re talking about.
“It is unfortunate she kills so tastelessly,” Adara growls as she sits her chin on her hand and glances over me with a suspicious eye, “You know that Fire-Spitter well like Amadahy. Wouldn’t you agree she belongs in the forest? The humans are vulnerable to her rages.”
“Amadahy once told me it’s only because she is young and not an ordinary Fire-Spitter,” I try to stick up for her even though what Minx did and does is pretty messed up sometimes, “I can talk to her. I’ll see if I can convince her to calm down and not kill so needlessly.”
“Maybe just discipline her with consequences. She bit me once,” Darshan speaks proudly of his own experience, “Layla brought me the antidote before the venom took effect. I won’t forget the pain it caused me, though. Next time Minx attempted to bite me, I swung the stick I was holding around and she bit into that instead and she got such a shock, she never attempted to bite me again. Simple. But effective.”
“But what did you do to her first?” I ask, wondering why Minx would target Darshan.
“She said she could smell that I tasted like her favourite kind of dinner,” Darshan laughs and Layla looks sick.
“She’s a problem, it isn’t funny,” Layla interjects, cutting off Darshan’s laughter, “She can’t keep on murdering people... what... just because she is a different kind of Fire-Spitter with psychopathic tendencies?”
“I’ve read quite a bit in my time and there are only two types of Fire-Spitters,” Darren speaks, clearly proud of his knowledge, “The psychopathic kind is the majority of that breed... and then the other kind... well... they are the really fucked up ones. They have blood rages, uncontrollable fury and venom of fire. If they are ever found they’re called Bellum Minima Dominus. Little War Lord. They lead armies of Fire-Spitters. If she is that breed... I have no idea... I’ve never met a Fire-Spitter and besides Minx, I have only read about them.”
“Little War Lord?” I ask, “How cute.”
“The only two Dragons she likes are you and Amadahy,” Darren points out, “...says much about you, Luv.”
“Oh, shut up,” I smile and then finish off the rest of my plate while they talk about the war training and the new curfews.
Apparently the new law until the war came, was that half of the mountain would work at night, half during the day... so that at all times we were hyper aware of the first sign of the impending Tempest army of Dragons, Mages and Fire-Spitters.
All because Althor killed Shai’s sister a long time ago and they were doubly enraged by the news of Zayda’s death.
Now, I can’t help but mull over the situation at hand. Zayda had been Thaddeus and Sylvan’s mother but died in child birth. I often wondered about the Horde of Fortune’s misfortune. Most of the Horde were Dragons set in stone from Shai’s magic. Althor was the leader ever since Thaddeus and Sylvan’s father died of a sudden illness. And Shai... well... she wanted a war to wipe out the West Lands. The Horde of Fortune and the Requiem Horde were clearly the targets. I didn’t know how far she’d plan to reign down her revenge... but I didn’t understand why such violence had to take place.
Unless, of course... Shai wasn’t just a Mage from the Horde of Fortune... but Zayda’s sister.
The thought occurs to me and as I think it, I zone out from the conversation at the breakfast table to reach Althor’s mind. I knew he’d be somewhere in this Horde, helping everyone train.
When I prod at his presence it is like always. Blocked. Impossible to read.
I suddenly stand up, my heart filled with the curiosity to find out more information.
“...um, Luv?” Darshan asks after I have inadvertently banged my fist down onto the table in my sudden frustration.
“Nothing, I need to go,” I snap and wave my hand at them all before running for the end of the ledge and transforming. I leave my clothes to stay on Adara’s ledge while I swoop down to the forest.
I could feel Althor in Dragon form in the trees, hunting his breakfast.
I decide to intercept him. Even though for five years I avoided the Dragon Lord, it was time I got some answers.
I find the amber scaled Dragon between some trees and boulders, sitting back relaxed as he picks at the bones of a deer he hunted down.
Good morning, I welcome him as I swoop down to land opposite Althor, sitting on my haunches to glance up at his huge Dragon head. He glances over me, pauses, and then continues to eat without speaking to me. I have a question to ask you.
I am in no mood to converse, princess Luvenia... I am busy thinking up battle plans to stop our imminent destruction from a war quickly approaching, he is sincere, at least I assume so. But at the same time, he was avoiding me too.
Tell me what you know of Shai, I ask, please. I beg you. I may be able to work out when this war comes and how it comes... I just need more information. Princess Amadahy will know the army, where they come from and their ways, she can also help. But I want to find out more. If Shai is a Blood Raven... what do you know of them... what does it mean when they come into our lands?
Hmmm, so you’ve been working out a few things about the war, Althor sighs and nudges the half eaten carcass over to me, have some if you wish, princess. You are correct that their is a process of having a Blood Raven enter Western lands, or even Middle territory in this realm. They belong in the East where their magic is more centred in the storms and wind. In the West... they are given as gifts... and warnings. Blood Ravens are Mages from a line of extremely powerful witches and warlocks. A family line who have many children and spread their power through blood. Normal mages are in abundance. Whereas Blood Ravens are not just powerful, but feared, notoriously stronger than Dragons and Mortals. They will not be crossed.
How are they so powerful? I ask.
They are Sprites themselves in human form, Althor explains, arrogantly as he educates me. But I rather he be arrogant about his knowledge than have him not tell me anything at all, Sprites are children of the Sky Gods. Mortals are the slaves of the land. Dragons are slaves of the Sprites. Sprites seek balance in good and bad but they themselves are mischievous. Usually they keep to their own realm, when they cross over to our common realm... that is what no one wants. That’s when Blood Ravens are born. If you kill a Blood Raven... even by accident, even if you regret it... it is worth a thousand Dragon deaths and a hundred thousand mortals’ souls. If you purposefully murder them... you will be cursed forever. Whether you are turned to stone with forever seeing eyes. Or you lose everyone and everything you love. It is all a matter of balance. Those who have more power are gods. Those who don’t... are slaves to those more powerful.
I know that is how our land has always been, I complain as I ask further, but I don’t understand why this war is here in the first place. But I think you do. Why did you kill Shai’s sister... and who was her sister?
The war is coming and that is all that matters, Althor growls in disgust of my boldness, you speak out of line, Luvenia. You do not ask a Dragon Lord about their misfortunes unless you wish misfortune upon yourself.
I swish my tail, irritated by his riddle and warning as he mists away from the area.
I am not hungry so I ignore the half eaten carcass of a deer.
I simply close my eyes and try to connect with my new power. A Sprite’s gift. For what reason I wasn’t sure.
A few minutes pass as I think but fail to grab any conclusions, about why the war was happening... why I had my specific power... and why Althor had a blocked mind and refused to speak of the Blood Raven he murdered.
“You think of power,” a new voice hits my ear, husky, older but sweet at the same time. When I reach for her presence... I feel nothing. I open my eyes and turn, but as I do so I feel my body misting on it’s own... and I do not will it.
I simply find my body condensing into human form, my feet planting firmly on the ground between the dry leaves, my limbs unmoving as my eyes then open... with a new figure in front of me. A pained face, tattoos covering every inch of Shai’s older body and familiar face.
Her dress is made of blue feathers from blue birds and her lips are stained blood red... I assume from actual blood rather than make up. Her soft blue eyes smile at me, as if she is happy to see me... but I know better.
“You’re back,” I whisper, standing naked and vulnerable as she doesn’t blink while staring me down.
“I’ll teach you of power. Dragon Lords...” she whispers, while she steps forward, slowly, one step at a time while she speaks to me, “Dragon Lords... are as powerful as Blood Ravens. But only Dragon Lords,” she stops two feet from me and I note that we are the same height. I tilt my head, hoping she explains more while I am curious of her intentions now that she has returned. As my mind wanders I find no other minds present, so I know the army isn’t here yet. She is simply delivering a message, “What separates a Dragon Lord and a Blood Raven, is simple. A Blood Raven has the mind of a pure Sprite. We see unchallenged. While Dragon Lords hold the same power... but they see with a human eye,” she reaches up a finger, with a too long nail that brushes the corner of my own eye, millimetres from scooping it out. I can not move much, so I wait and hope she doesn’t decide maiming me is necessary... “It is the reason Dragons mate with humans. They are more alike than you know. Why else would you transform into humans... not deer... rabbits... birds... but these forms. You are of the same kind.”
“Why are you telling me this?” I ask, quietly.
“You are correct that I am delivering a message,” Shai drops her hand and takes a step back, looking up to the sky, she raises a finger and I watch as grey clouds wisp from her very hand, up in a swirl towards the sky until a grey cloud forms... before dissipating along the tree tops, “...a war is coming.”
I realise now, she doesn’t know that we are aware of such a fact.
At least we had that advantage.
“The war is over,” I pretend to play along and she smiles and shakes her head, before catching my gaze once more.
“No, Luv, it’s almost begun,” Shai purses her lips and looks upset that I am going to be a casualty of her foreseen war, “I am asking you to deliver a message to your fathers. Tell them to surrender the mountain. My army of Tempest Breeds will happily return to the East with human and Dragon slaves as payment for my sister’s murder. If you don’t want to surrender... we will not only kill everyone here. I will turn you all to stone. So you will live an eternity of suffering.”
“I don’t understand how this balances one life lost... the Sprites seem to have more power than the Sky Gods. The Sky Gods themselves never do anything to interfere and fix things,” at my words, Shai smiles and laughs, amused.
“The Sky Gods aren’t people, silly girl,” Shai shakes her head, “They are simply masses of power. That power slips through to all beings. Whoever holds more power, rules. It doesn’t mean Sprites can do whatever they want... if power is used to upset the balance of these lands... the Sky Gods don’t just hand out a wave of opposing magic to counter the affects of the imbalance. They slaughter everything. They drown lands to sand and burn the forest to ash... to start again. Sprites, although we may seem evil... we stop those events from occurring. We are simply those who must guard that balance.”
“How do you know all this?” I ask, confused because she sounded so certain.
“No one truly knows the answers to the big questions,” Shai sighs and continues to take a few steps back at a time while her eyes close and she breathes in the magic from the forest around her. I say that as I feel and witness the leaves and trees bend to her, like they are giving her energy as she inhales.
“If the world is based on magic. What is magic? Where does it come from to determine all this...?” I ask, deciding to ask before she disappears.
“Our hearts channel magic,” Shai opens her eyes, watching me distantly as if she is reminiscing of someone she once loved, now lost, “What we feel... is what determines the balance. The heart makes us act. That feeling of righteousness is magic and power speaking through us. Whether it translates to rage, love, joy or a need for vengeance... if you act... it is in the interest of the Sky Gods. You need not worry about what, logically, is right. Because it’s not a thought or set rules that determine what is right and wrong. It is simply what you feel. What you feel, is what is always right.”
“Then you better give the Requiem Horde a better reason to surrender into slavery,” I speak just as I see her feet mist. They slowly solidify however, as I speak clearly and with passion, “Because that certainly doesn’t feel right.”
She grins now and it’s terrifying because she looks... so certain.
“You’re Dragons and humans,” she shakes her head, “Your feelings are corrupted by petty greedy needs, lusts and desires. You can not possibly understand unless you are of higher and purified power. Humans and Dragons are stupid. Reckless. Gullible. What I say is truth. So. You will all either surrender or suffer an eternity of pain in solid, unmovable masses of stone.”
“One more question,” I snap and she now narrows her eyes, impatient. She does not speak so I take it as a cue to continue with my question, “Sprites gift certain... people... with abilities. Why?”
“If you cannot answer that yourself, you just prove your own ignorance and corrupted mind. It is like doubt and fear... they are not real emotions. They are all in your head. Concocted from worry and anxiety. I pray you all surrender, Luv. It is your only chance of survival... you can not out wit a Blood Raven... I pray you do listen to me, Luv. We were good friends. We can still be so,” she now mists and I stand still, grimacing.
Until she is gone in a flurry of blue birds flying in all different directions.
And then I smile.
Because clearly she didn’t know how many gifts from the Sprites lingered within our Horde.
Thaddeus was a Dragon Slayer killer. Sylvan a Prophet’s Eye. My mother and uncle, Dragon Slayers. My fathers, Dragon Lords. Not to forget, the Lost Horde had mysteriously had their two young Twin Leading Breeds pop up in our territory as well. Not to mention our other allies within the Dusk Horde and their Dragon Lords. That was eight Twin Leading Breeds in total... on our side.
Including myself. A Dragon Lord Slayer.
And that is why I was smiling.
Because if what she said is true, and a Dragon Lord had the same potency of magic as a Blood Raven... then Blood Ravens couldn’t escape what my own power could achieve.
If the balance of magic was a true thing... the Sky Gods seemed to be gifting us with this magic... for a reason.
I believed it was to counter Shai’s army.
But it didn’t mean we’d win automatically... we had to use our gifts... but our hearts as well.
I silently thank Shai for the life lesson.
I agreed that what was felt, was often right. And I knew she didn’t mean petty emotions. She was, instead, referring specifically to that fire everyone felt in their gut about something. That feeling of righteousness. That feeling of passion. The type of feeling that made you simply know, what was right and what was wrong... without having to think logically at all, or read a set guide of rules.
And thankfully, I had an abundance of that kind of passion. And every day I further understood how fear and doubt kept my inner fire at bay, clouding my thoughts.
But, Shai also unwittingly gave me further confidence in myself and my family and friends.
She was clouded with doubt about us. She was underestimating us and overestimating her own power.
However, she hadn’t lived 22 years in the Requiem Horde. She had lived in the forest, trapped as a bird, wanting revenge and nothing more.
But I knew where I came from.
And emotion? Certainly wasn't in short supply.