Miria watched the sunrise atop the terrace of the white building. The yellows, oranges, and reds of the sun's light painted the fog in pretty hues, though the deep red did remind her of what was to come. The frosty air felt good in her lungs. Taking slow deep breaths helped clear her mind and focus.
"Who would have thought it would come to this," Deneve said. "Mercenaries fighting for a city…not the way I thought we would go."
"How did you think it would be then?" Helen said, reaching for another fruit from the fruit bowl and stuffing it in her mouth.
Deneve shrugged. "I don't know, but not like this. I just don't want to die for nothing."
"Nothing? The Capitol is home to millions of innocent people," Cynthia said. "I think fighting for them wouldn't be dying for nothing."
"…Why are you all so dark about this?" Tabitha said. "We're not going to die…we've been through worse."
"Worse than this?" Helen laughed. "I don't think so. We're surrounded from all sides, and outnumbered."
Miria took in another long breath before turning around to face the others within the room. None of them could quite sleep, and thus the conversations have been rather open and brutally honest.
"Has anyone seen Teresa and Clare?" Miria said.
They all looked at each other for answers, but no one seemed to know, It was then when Galatea and Isley arrived in the room, Galatea walking in first Isley's gesture for her to do so.
"They flew away, together," Galatea said.
"Where?" Miria asked.
"Somewhere far away, but they will be back."
"They better…" Helen said. "…There's no way Clare would ditch us, right?"
"We should get going…" Miria said.
They took the stairs down to the ground level, and upon arriving at the front lobby, Miria was surprised to see Hysteria sitting across one of the seats and sipping what looked to be wine. Her face appeared neutral, and when they locked eyes it felt the same. Miria could not tell what she was thinking or feeling and that made her feel only slightly anxious. Beside Hysteria was a small box, or a package. It certaintly caught her curiosity.
Miria walked on over to her, but stopped when Rafaela approach her.
"Miria, I need to talk to you."
Miria looked behind at her friends, all of which seemed as surprised as she was. Miria obliged and they went to an empty room and shut the door.
"Yes?" Miria said, crossing her arms.
"I've decided to be with my sister," Rafaela said.
Rafaela shrugged. "I know she's a monster, but I can't stand it anymore. I no longer care what she is. There is no other purpose for me."
"Don't say that," Miria said.
"I will make certain that Riful and Luciela send you the armies you require for us all to win.."
"So you've made your choice, huh?"
Rafaela nodded. "I have."
Miria felt strange to not even say goodbye. She and Rafaela were not friends but that didn't mean they didn't know eachother. She returned to the lobby where everyone awaited her. Hysteria included, who was standing amongst her friends. And they looked to have been talking.
"Alright then, are we ready?" Miria said to all of them.
At that moment, someone came in from the front entrance. Miria turned over there and saw that it was Evelina and…Maddy. But something wasn't quite right. Maddy had a collar around her neck, with a lead that was held by Evelina who walked in front of her. Maddy's hands were also tied to her back by rope that went around her entire torso in beautiful loops and nods. And she did not look to be happy about it in the slightest.
"Oh, you are still here?" Evelina said, smiling as she tugged on Maddy's lead so she would move faster. "Well, I wish you the best of luck." She looked over at Maddy whose stare was firmly upon Miria, eyes wide and fuming. "Maddison here wishes you the best of luck too, right Maddison ?"
Maddy continued staring at her, and Miria was surprised at just how little sympathy she felt for the instructress.
"Miria, tell Evelina to release me immediately!" Maddy said. "You cannot treat me like this!"
"Release you? Why would I do that?" Miria said.
"Let. Me. Out." Maddy said with a venomous narrow glare.
Miria approached the instructress, who seemed to cower a little. "I'll make you a deal, 'Maddison'. You give me what I want, and you will be set free. Until then, you now belong to Evelina. Understand?"
The fury returned to Maddy's face, and the stare she gave was as sharp as a blade. A conditioned terror sparked within Miria, but she snuffed it out.
"You can't do this to me, Miria," Maddy said. "I will mix you a tonic. I already promised you that."
"I know you did, but I thought you might work harder if your freedom is at stake. We're going to survive this battle with the dragonkin, so I suggest you get to work immediately. Evelina, take her away."
"I'll give her the space to work, but that doesn't mean I won't have my fun," Evelina said, licking her lips. "You know that."
"I don't want to know," Miria said.
Evelina tugged on the lead, "Come now, dear… we have a lot of work to do…oh I mean you do. Silly me."
Maddy's fear instantly dissipated and what Miria saw was anguish. She thought for a moment that the woman would beg for mercy but it seemed her pride was simply too great for that. Evelina led her away and that was the end of that.
Miria noticed Hysteria giving her a rather a curious stare, and once again, Miria could not quite tell what it meant.
As a group, they left the white building, and campus, and headed for the mountains. Along the way, there was an uncomfortable silence. There were only the occasional murmurs here and there. There was a sense of dread in the air. Miria often glanced over at Hysteria. The two of them had not spoken since last night, and she did not want to force anything. Curiously, though, Hysteria was still carrying the small package.
Upon arriving at the mountains, they came to the war camps that were established by General Karter. The tents went as far as the eye could see, scattered across multiple mountains and their valleys in between. Regulators marched about in regiments, their shining plate armors glistening in the sun.
A regulator greeted them and escorted them over to General Karter's war tent which was as big as a house. The front was guarded by two regulators in golden plate mail, both of them wielding halberts. Both saluted them and pulled the flaps aside for them to enter.
The interior was almost luxurious. The carpet was plain red, and there were braziers upon stands in every corner. In the center was a large wooden table with a topographic map of what looked to be the surrounding land all around it. General karter leaned across the table with her back to them. Two other regulators in golden armor stood on either side of the table.
"General Kater," Miria said.
General Kater and her officers turned around to face them. "Miria, it's about time you arrived. There have been new developments since yesterday."
At that moment, Miria noticed that it wasn't only Karter and her officers in the tent. Luciela and Riful were there too, alongside Rafaela who stood close by her sister's side.
Riful and Luciela's scouts had indicated that the dragonkin had stopped their advancement. The working theory was that Arrylys has had a change in strategy, though no one could entirely be certain exactly what that was. Galatea had claimed that her visions were clouded, and though she could not locate the dragon queen's location, she could sense some sort of disturbance to her life's aura. Miria had asked if there was a possibility that she was dead, but Galatea did not seem to think that was the case.
The regulators had shown the others to their own private tents while Miria stayed behind to discuss strategies further with Karter. For hours they discussed almost every possible scenario, what was plan A,B,C, and even D. If the dragonkin were having a change in strategies, then they should be ready for it.
Eventually, both she and Karter had exhausted all options and felt satisfied with their plans. Miria left the General's tent and was escorted over to her designated tent which was nearby. She was surprised to be given one that was suitable for an office. It was almost as large as the General's tent and contained various luxuries such as a proper bed, a table with a topographic map of the surrounding area. In the center was a large brazier that burnt a bright fire that radiated warmth throughout the tent.
She walked on over to the bed and sat down against it. She peered over at her side and noticed that someone was in the tent with her. Hysteria walked out from behind a separating curtain, staring at her as if she had been waiting. In her hand was the small package, the one that Miria had been wondering about all day.
"How did the strategizing go?"
Miria sighed. "It went well. I eventually managed to convince Karter of my plan to build barricades in the valleys to slow down the dragonkin advance. We have the time to do it apparently."
Hysteria did not say anything to that. She merely tilted her head and stared as if she barely even listened to any of that.
"Why are you just standing there?" Miria said, tapping the side of the bed. "Do you want to sit down beside me?"
Hysteria pouted and turned her face to the side. "No."
At first, Miria did not really understand why Hysteria said that. She felt the sting of rejection, but then a rueful smile drew upon Hysteria and she assumed a seat beside her across the bed.
Hysteria smiled at her, and Miria smiled back, but her stare went down to the package upon the woman's lap.
"You know, I've been curious about that thing you're holding all day."
"I know you have, that was the whole point."
"Always trying to get into my head, huh?"
"I got you a gift, Mira." Hysteria said, handing her the package.
Miria peeled off the paper wrapping only to reveal another box. She gave Hysteria a curious look, as if to say 'What is this?'
"Are you going to open it?" Hysteria said.
Miria did so, and inside the box there were rows upon rows of small chocolates, all shaped like hearts.
"…Chocolates?" Miria said.
"Yes, I came by this in a rather exquisite part of the Capitol. I was told they are made by an artisan."
"…Did you steal it?"
"No, as a matter of fact, I paid for it."
"With what money?"
"I have money…"
Hysteria gave her a stark look. "Alright, Miria. If you must know, It was not my money. I stole it from Evelina. She keeps a large stash in one of her draws. But I did purchase this myself."
Miria didn't know what to say or think. She simply stared at Hysteria for a long moment ."You went to get this for me last night? I thought you were upset at me?"
"I was. But I still wanted to get you something."
Hysteria grew irritated. "What do you mean why? Do you want it or not?"
"Thank you, kitten."
Hysteria flushed. "…You know, this morning, when I saw Maddy in the white building… I did not expect you to deal with her the way you had."
"To be fair, it was Evelina's idea…She thinks it would help motivate Maddy to work harder on your tonic," Miria said as she gently brushed Hysteria's arm with the tip of her fingers. "I promised Maddy her freedom as soon as she makes it."
"And do you plan on keeping your word? Assuming we survive this and she ends up actually making it? Surely you're not actually going to free Maddy."
Miria smiled. "I have been known to lie at times…"
"I like how you dealt with her.… It was…arousing."
"Arousing? are you sure that's the right word?" Miria said.
Hysteria gave her a voluptuous look and she crept over to Miria on all fours across the bed. "Oh yes, I am quite sure. I got my alpha back." Her hand reached down to the chocolate box, grabbed a chocolate, and moved it towards Miria's mouth. Miria opened her mouth to receive it but at the last moment, Hysteria pulled it back and ate it herself.
Miria frowned. "I thought it was supposed to be my gift?"
Hysteria grabbed another chocolate and placed it in Miria's mouth. The moment Miria received it, Hysteria went in for the kiss and they both fell back against the bed, their hands running all over each other.
The master woke against a cold hard surface. His mouth was dry, his head sore, and his body ached all over. He groaned as he sat upright and peered about at his surroundings. There was a single light near him; the dying flames of a single sconce that barely had enough illumination to drive away the darkness.
He got to his feet and took a moment to think about where he was, and even who he was. His mind was still a blur and nothing made any sense. After taking a moment to think, he headed towards the single source of light, but after only taking only a few steps, the light disappeared and everything was plunged into complete and utter darkness.
He shivered at the cold, and for a moment had no idea what to do, simply stared out at the darkness in utter confusion. He felt all alone in this place, and there was a sense of peace to the eternal darkness, though, a moment of sanctuary that gave him time to think.
But then he felt a presence around him. A dark, malevolent presence that sucked out all the oxygen from the room and made it hard to breathe. There came movement to his side, but when he turned that way there was nothing but darkness.
"Hello?" The master said, voice hoarse. "Who's there?"
There came movement again from his other side, but the darkness made it impossible to see. Something touched his leg and he took a step back out of panic. As he did that though, he bumped into something hard. It didn't feel like a wall, nor was it overly cold. It felt scaly, and organic almost. Whatever he bumped into, it pushed him forward so hard that he fell over and tumbled face-first into the hard cold floor.
Laughter echoed all around from a deep booming voice, a voice that he slowly began to recognize. Panic set in and he quickly got to his feet, peering about. Two glowing orbs slowly came closer to him. At first, he couldn't quite figure out what they were, but when the faint outline of a snout showed, he realized they were the glow of eyes.
At that moment, everything came back, and he fell into a panic as he began to realize exactly what was happening.
"It's not possible. How are we both alive?" He said.
The pair of red eyes withdrew and were swallowed by the darkness, followed again by that deep, booming laughter. It echoed many times over, seemingly coming from all directions at once.
"Viktor….what did thou do to me, Viktor?" The voice said.
"Show yourself!" Viktor demanded.
At that moment, Arryly's form was revealed from the light of the blue flames she breathed. The fire touched the hard stone floor all around and burnt brightly, so bright that he had to cover his eyes to shield them. When he recovered, what he saw shocked him.
Arrylys stared at him with blood-red eyes. She was in her dragon form but something was different. Her once beautiful scaly skin had turned dark and rotten.
"What have thou done to me, Viktor!" Arrylys said with fury, staring at him with blood-red eyes of death.
"You're supposed to be dead! The both of us are supposed to be dead!"
"I am not dead, Viktor, in fact, I feel very much alive."
Arrylys withdrew from him and released a mighty roar that shook the entire metallic chamber. She breathed blue fire all around, so hot it threatened to sear him even without contact. Viktor stared in awe at the monstrosity that was before him.
Arrylys looked more like an awakened being than an actual dragon, or rather, some grim combination of the two. Her body was larger, more muscular, and twisted in places that didn't appear to be normal. There were parts of her that appeared to be moving as if the flesh beneath the scales was alive on its own.
He withdrew in horror until his back hit a wall. Those deathly eyes came upon him once more as the awakened dragon advanced for him, baring her teeth as blue flames emitted from her mouth.
Arrylys' massive form came up to him, and she pressed her snout up to him. A great rush of air came in and out of her nostrils as she breathed in and exhaled huge quantities of air.
"Please...forgive me..." Viktor whimpered.
The last thing Viktor saw were those massive jaws opening, revealing a great maw of death that swallowed him whole. And then there was darkness once more.
Galatea opened her eyes as soon as she sensed it; a dark presence of unimaginable power that instantly gave her a cold sweat. Isley immediately noticed and approached her, sitting next to her across the carpet of their shared tent.
"You sense something," Isley said.
Galatea swallowed nervously. "Something has awakened…"
"You mean, a new awakened being?"
"No, something different. It's Arrylys. Her life force has changed. Her essence, it has become corrupt…"
Isley looked at her oddly, unsure what she meant by that. Galatea wasn't quite sure herself, but what she did know for sure is that whatever it was, it was not good for them.
"We need to inform Miria."
As Galatea headed out of the tent, she came upon Odette who just so happened to enter at the same time. The way Odette was looking at her was confirmation that she, too, had sensed the same thing.
No matter how hard she tried, Clare could not bring forth the light. Teresa seemed rather frustrated by the lack of progress, but not once had she given up trying. They sat atop a plateau facing each other. Up here, the view was a sight to behold. They were in the middle of nowhere, and there was nothing but green forest all around them. Teresa had thought such a place would help calm the mind, and she was right about that, but it did not help with what they were ultimately trying to do. After about an hour, or what felt like an hour, Clare's patience had hit its limit, She rose to her feet and walked to the edge of the plateau.
"This isn't working, We're just wasting time."
"You shouldn't give up, Clare," Teresa said. "If I can do it, then so can you."
Clare tapped her foot, thinking, then turned around and walked back to Teresa. "I don't feel anything. I don't even know what to feel."
Teresa sighed and got to her feet. She expanded her wings outwards as far as they would go, blocking out the sun behind her. "You and I have these things for a reason. There is a connection between us that goes beyond worlds. I felt it from the first moment we met, and I think you did too."
Clare turned silent. She could still barely wrap her mind around the both of them having such appendages.
"Why didn't you tell me all this earlier?" Clare said.
"Clare, I only recently got my wings back."
"I'm not just talking about that."
Teresa tilted her head, confused. "What was I supposed to tell you? That I met a clelestial version of you in a dream once? I'm trying to make sense of it myself."
Clare said nothing. She honestly didn't know the answer to that question and continued to stubbornly stare forward.
"Do you remember when we first met?" Teresa asked.
Clare sighed and turned around. "Of course I do."
Teresa walked up to her, smiling. "You were a such persistent little thing. I kept wondering what drove you to obsessively follow me the way you did." She reached out and grabbed both of Clare's hands, and held them tightly. "I was never a believer in destiny or fate or anything like that, but I can say for certain that you and I, we're supposed to be together, in one way or another."
They peered into each other's gaze then, and Clare wondered what Teresa was thinking. She wondered if perhaps Teresa was going to say something, or possibly do something else. There was uncertainty across the woman's face, a moment of indecision, and yet, it was not awkward. Teresa smiled at her, and it was warm and welcoming.
Teresa peered over to the edge of the plateau, and while still holding on to one hand, directed Clare to walk with her that way. They sat sat down against the edge and stared outward into the vast wilderness.
"Your powers will awaken when they are ready," Teresa said. "Maybe we shouldn't force it."
"So then, I guess we return to the others?"
"I think we should pretty soon, or Miria will have a nervous breakdown."
"Since when do you care about that?"
They laughed at that, and when they were calm again, Clare leaned her head against Teresa's shoulder. "Can we stay like this for a while longer?"
"I'd like nothing more…"
For a while, there was peace and serenity, and Clare felt like she was home. But then she felt something tense up within Teresa, and she lifted her face off her shoulder.
"What is it?" Clare asked.
Teresa didn't respond. Her face was stiff and she appeared to be staring forward at something. Clare looked that way but saw nothing.
"Teresa what is –– " Clare instantly froze when she felt it, a dark presence of unimaginable power that made her feel very small.
Teresa quickly got to her feet and continued to stare forwards. She looked like an animal alert for incoming danger. Clare swore she saw fear across her friend's face, something she had never quite seen before. It made her worry.
"It's her…." Teresa said.
"Arrylys. She's headed for the others…"
Roxanne left the war camp and set out to walk alone in the forest. She headed down a valley and passed by a group of regulators that were busy building a barrier made out of logs with their tips sharpened. Such a contraption was supposed to slow down the advancement of the dragonkin, but she had her doubts about how effective it would be.
She walked along a fast-moving river stream that eventually led to a waterfall. There, she climbed a large rock and sat atop it, watching the water fall down into a lake below. She breathed in the cool, moist air and listened to the loud rush of water.
The peace was disturbed by the snap of a twig, and she quickly got up and drew out her sword. Someone came out from behind a tree, nearby, someone who at first she did not recognize, someone who she hadn't seen in a long time.
"Ophelia? What are you doing here?" Roxanne said.
Ophelia approached the rock and climbed to the top. Roxanne held on to her sword out of caution, not feeling completely trusting. Ophelia sat down against the edge of the rock and peered down at the lake below.
"It's been a while, Roxanne."
"Answer my question, what are you doing here?" Roxanne asked.
"I heard the end of the world is upon us," Ophelia said with a crooked smile. "Is it so hard to believe that I just want to speak to my only friend?"
Roxanne threw her a strange look, and to that, Ophelia began to laugh. "I'm just messing with you. I'm here for another reason. Did you already forget what we spoke about a while back?"
"I thought you were dead, or something," Roxanne said, lowering her sword, though still cautious. "Haven't heard of you in a long while…"
"Still not dead, unfortunatelly. Did you manage to befriend Teresa yet?"
Roxanne sighed and sat down beside her, swinging her legs over the edge. "Well, not exactly, why?"
Ophelia reached into her clothing and pulled out a small glass vial with a clear liquid inside. She held it out in front of her and gave it a slght shake. "I have something for you right here."
"What is it?"
"This will cause instant paralysis, even to someone like Teresa," Ophelia said.
"Where did you get that from?"
"A few days ago. An instructress by the name of Maddy."
"Yes...do you know her?"
"You can say that…" Roxanne tried to reach for it, but Ophelia pulled it away suddenly.
"...Not so fast. First, I want something from you."
"Give this to Teresa, and then, bring her to me," Ophelia said.
"Why? What do you want with her?"
"The bitch tried to kill me, so, I just want to make her suffer a bit, that's all."
Roxanne raised a brow. "You do realize we need Teresa to defeat the dragonkin, right?"
"Let's be real. Neither of us really care about any of that. All you want is Teresa, and with this, you can finally have her. With this, you'll be able to absorb all her powers, her strength, and become the strongest of all. I know you want that Roxanne. So, how about it, do we have a deal?"
Miata was already getting used to her adult body, but that didn't mean she was happy about it. She thought she'd be happy being a grown-up, but it was a strange experience. She did not understand adult jokes and did not know how to react in certain social situations, so in order to avoid that, she stayed away from everyone.
Clarice had been her only friend, but she had remained back at the academy. And even with her, the dynamic between them had changed, and Clarice seemed horrified to learn that her adult form was apparently a permanent thing.
She wandered away from the war camp, and whilst walking through the forest, discovered two individuals sitting atop a rock by a waterfall. She recognized one of them as Roxanne, and the other, someone she did not know. She could sense that whoever the other one was, was in fact an awakened being. She could pick up the scent of it. The awakened being was in human form and slipped something small over to Roxanne who grabbed it and put it away. Afterward, the two spoke for a short moment longer before Roxanne began to head back to the war camp.
Miata followed Roxanne back, hiding behind tree after tree as she trailed her. Roxanne seemed oblivious to her presence at first, but then she suddenly stopped and turned around.
"I know you're following me, Miata. You can come out."
Miata emerged out from behind the tree she had been hiding against and walked towards Roxanne who wore a curious smile. "It's rude to spy on others, you know. What are you doing spying on me?"
Miata turned shy, held her head down, and twisted her heel in the dirt. "I wasn't spying…"
"Lying is rude too."
"Who was that awakened being you were with?" Miata asked. "She gave you something. What did she give you?"
Roxanne's smile faded and she looked away. She seemed annoyed. "None of your business… I don't even know why you're here, you should be back at the academy with Clarice. That is where children belong."
"I'm not a child."
"Well, technically you still are. So leave me alone. I don't want to babysit you."
As Roxanne headed off, Miata watched her leave, then, after a while, wondered off for a walk. She headed up to the nearest mountaintop and remained there to think. The sky was mostly clear with only few clouds above. Miata tried to do what Miria usually does and so she attempted to meditate, but, after trying to find calm, something peaked her interest. She sensed a powerful presense approaching.
i'm currently working on a book which is almost complete. I will provide a link here soon for anyone that is interested. Thank you for reading and i will be updating this too in the meantime.