Kyra's eyes drifted over the bloody battlefield as she flew over it. Being what she was, she had never had a place in the midst of the war like many of her family had. Instead, she was hidden away and hated all but her only remaining sister and the captain of the Royal Flight, Andreios. However, it was because of her oddness that she could fly freely when not in the eyes of her people since no one knew an Avian could shift into an eagle instead of the standard sparrows, crows, and hawks.
She had never supported this useless war that'd spanned since before anyone could remember. Kyra was certain neither side could remember why the other was fighting and that they didn't care. At this point the original cause for the war was long forgotten so that only the rage for loved ones lost at the hands of the other side remained.
It was useless.
It was pointless.
It was unrelenting.
Though she'd never been particularly close with her people as a whole, it left her heart burning at the sight of all the lives that'd been tossed away for a reason none could recall. It wasn't even just seeing her own people dead and bleeding on the ground that hurt her; the countless Serpiente lives that'd been destroyed stung just as much.
Her ability to hide in plain sight while flying had allowed her the briefest of glimpses into the lives of the other side. Kyra had been amazed to see how beautifully the snakes that were so feared could weave their bodies to dance with a grace none of her own kind possessed. They fascinated her. Each species had its own beauty and it hurt to know that the Avians would never see what their enemies were like outside of war. The Serpiente would never see the wonders that the Avians they feared could create with rare metals if they weren't weapons.
Kyra's mourning for the things others would never know was cut short, however when she caught sight of her sister—one Danica Shardae—kneeling next to a man who was obviously not one of their own. A quick glance at the surroundings on that particular are of the battlefield informed her that none were near besides Andreios, who already knew of the oddity that was the eldest daughter of Nacola Shardae. Without further hesitation, Kyra dove to land next to Danica's friend, shifting forms as she landed.
"What is going on, Rei?" she inquired quietly. Danica seemed to be humming something to the dying snake before her.
"Xavier was killed not far from here and Dani found a Cobriana suffering the same fate," he replied just as softly. "Now she refuses to let him die alone."
"At least someone else is starting to understand that no one deserves this fate," Kyra muttered thankfully before moving to kneel at the cobra's unoccupied side.
He looked afraid for a moment at the new presence, but his eyes turned hopeful when he looked at her with those muddy red eyes. "Sisal?" he asked weakly.
The eagle knew that her hair and eye colors were causing the dying boy—she'd been wrong in thinking he was a dying man and it infuriated her to see someone not much younger than Danica dying because of the same stupid war that'd taken most of their family—to imagine that she was someone she was not. To Gregory, he was seeing the sister that'd been taken from him years ago. To Kyra, she was giving hope while Danica provided comfort to a boy that wasn't much different from their now-deceased brother Xavier.
"It's alright, Gregory. I'm here," Kyra soothed as Danica continued to hum. "Go to sleep. I'll be here when you wake."
It wasn't until his eyes had closed for the last time that Kyra finally looked at her sister.
She was crying.
Kyra carefully stepped around Gregory to help Danica stand. Despite the fact that touching—even between family members—was a social taboo among Avians, the eagle pulled her sister into a tight hug. Danica couldn't fight the sob that escaped her throat as she clung to her big sister.
The most hated member of the Shardae line was one of the few that had ever seen Danica break. Rei was another back when her Alistair died. But with her eldest sister, Danica had never had to hide her emotions. Avian reserve be damned, whenever she could sneak away long enough to see Kyra, she did. They'd had many long talks where both could vent emotions like they couldn't to anyone else. There had never really been any secrets between the two.
Now, Danica couldn't imagine anyone else she'd rather lean on during this moment of weakness.
"This war is idiotic," Danica managed to say when they finally pulled apart.
Kyra just nodded. "You're finally starting to understand, little sister, as much as I wish you didn't have to. The royal families alone have been torn apart more than I thought I'd ever see."
"We should return to the Keep," Andreios announced softly, breaking the moment of realization Danica was having. "Your mother is going to start worrying. We don't know that there isn't someone hiding in the grass waiting to take out the last of your line."
"You mean our mother is going to start worrying about Danica," Kyra corrected. At this point, she wanted to be bitter, but she was only numb to the fact that her mother would probably celebrate if a snake managed to kill the smudge on the otherwise revered Shardae name. "You are right, though. Both of you go back and tell Mother that Xavier has passed from this life."
"What about you, Kyra?" Danica asked worriedly.
"Don't worry about me, little sister. I can handle myself should an assassin try to attack. I doubt they will, though. Enough has been lost on both sides this day. I am going to remain here for a bit longer to make sure that some less understanding soul does not stumble upon Gregory's body and disrespect his memory. The Serpiente people would not take kindly to that."
Their responses were simultaneous silent nods before they turned around to retreat to the Keep. Danica wouldn't say it aloud, but she was afraid what their mother's reaction would be if she found out that Kyra had been out without her guard or circlet to hide her eyes behind the ruse of being blind. Andreios, however, knew that Nacola was unlikely to retaliate against this particular act of rebellion Kyra was having, partially since she'd proven to be a better fighter than even himself not even a week prior. If anyone would get in trouble, it would be Danica herself since she had been forbidden from going on the battlefield when her other sister had been killed.
Once both of the retreating forms had shifted and taken flight, Kyra knelt at Gregory's side once more. "You didn't deserve this, little one," she whispered, carding her fingers through his black hair. "No one deserves this."
If she didn't look past the cobra's face, she could almost fool herself into believing that he was sleeping. As she studied his lifeless face, Kyra realized that Gregory looked like he could be her little brother. This realization caused her to blink several times in surprise. He looked more like a sibling to her than any of her actual siblings.
"I guess that's proof in and of itself, little one. We really aren't so different, after all," she chuckled quietly. "Maybe somewhere along the line, we were closer than any of us realize."
She could just imagine it. Way up in both royal families' family trees during the time of Kiesha and Alistair themselves, there could have been a cobra and a hawk from which both lines were descended. That would explain her looks. Throw in one of the long-extinct eagles of old, and Kyra's entire existence could be explained. The bloodline would have been so long diluted from mating with only birds or other snakes that there was no actual relation between the royal families now that there were just genes left dormant from a time long ago that Kyra had just happened to inherit. Stranger things had probably happened.
Rustling from the woods behind her told Kyra that Gregory's people were likely on their way to retrieve his body to bury him properly. "Rest in peace, little one," she whispered, placing a kiss on his cool forehead before shifting and taking flight. Once she was in the air, Kyra glanced back to see a man who could only be Gregory's older brother Zane taking what had been her place at his side. Tears filled his ruby eyes as he glanced up at her, not knowing that she was anything more than an ordinary bird.
Kyra knew without question that that look of utter despair would haunt her dreams that night and many after.