"You should address my daughter; she will be Tuuli Thea soon."

Kyra Shardae scoffed at these words, drawing the attention of one Zane Cobriana. She could not see him due to the gold band that was in its usual place around her head to cover her eyes, but she could feel his gaze on her. It was believed that the eldest of Nacola's daughters was blind—hence the "decorative" band—but her senses were legendary. It was said that she could hold her own in battle even without her eyes.

"Kyra, is it true—"

"I believe you misunderstand." Nacola interrupted the Disa. "Kyra will not gain the throne because of her . . . weakness. Danica will become Tuuli Thea."

Zane eyed the elder daughter curiously once this was said. The elder's fist tightened when her mother announced this; it was the only outward sign of her anger she allowed. Kyra was truly a curious thing when compared to the rest of her family. She wore dark brown attire in contrast to Danica's golden ware and black hair to her sister's and mother's light brown.

"My lady Shardae, I am fully aware of your . . . distaste for your elder daughter, but the idea I am about to propose is more easily accepted if it is not the crown princess." The Disa sounded vaguely annoyed. "Join the two royal families; let your people follow the example of their leaders."

"I am willing to test this idea." Nacola said too quickly. She seemed to be jumping at the chance to rid her family of its imperfection.

"If it will end this war . . . I will try anything." Zane agreed slowly.

"Good. You will depart for Serpiente lands in the morning. Return to your chambers and rest," the Disa dismissed the two of the royal families.

Kyra growled to herself as she quickly left the hall. I should have known she would have no care for my survival, she thought angrily as she entered her room. She was about to rip off the covering over her eyes when she became aware of another presence.

"Who is there?" she demanded instantly, shifting so her ear was toward the door.

"Impressive, your guard did not even notice my presence."

"What do you want, Zane?" Kyra sighed, but she did not relax.

"I thought it wise to have a word with my future Naga." Zane replied, watching her. "I am not going to attack you or whatever it is you are thinking."

"I have only survived this long by not trusting people. If I did, my mother would have had me killed long ago."

"She was rather quick to agree to this . . . arrangement." He agreed. Kyra could hear him sit on one of the room's large pillows.

"I have been a stain on her perfect family since I was born." Kyra spat.

Zane could almost see her eyes flashing in anger. "Why is that? Based on looks you are just as perfect as them."

"By Serpiente standards, sure. But by the hawks' of the keep . . . I think not."

"So what do you think of this arrangement?" he inquired.

"I do not much care, so long as I am away from those people." She admitted. "I do, however, hope that this works. This war is pointless and causes many unnecessary deaths."

"Many in my family have been killed for it." Zane sounded regretful. "Why does your family hate you so much as to send you into enemy lands on a faint hope?"

"I was born . . . different."

"Your blindness?"

"In a manner of speaking. I'm also of the avian royal family, but I am no hawk."

"What?" he sounded shocked.

"I am a black eagle."

Zane stared. Kyra could feel him staring. "Eagles are more dangerous than hawks. It was believed that that line died out long ago."

"I am the first in centuries. Apparently, it has been a trait hidden in the family since then."

"That is wondrous! Why would they shun that?" he wondered.

"It threatens to take power away from the hawks. I have been locked away, out of sight from the world since I was a child." Zane could see a couple of tears roll down her cheek from under the band.

She jumped when he gently brushed the tears away. His skin was cool compared to her unusually hot skin—even for avian standards. She was quite surprised at how gentle the touch was. Her fingers dug into his arms as she grabbed them, bowing her head and using her dark hair as a curtain.

"Don't hide from me, Kyra." Zane pleaded. "You are going to be my Naga soon enough. I will not ask you for anything physical unless you wish for it, but I do ask that you do not hide yourself from me."

"Do you realize that all anyone's ever told me is to hide who I really am?" Kyra offered a small smile as she looked up at him . . . well faced him again.

"I can assure you that I will never hide you from the world" he promised.

"Thank you." She said genuinely. "I barely even know you, your people have been our enemies for centuries, and you already treat me better than my own family." Her grip finally loosened, but she still held his forearms.

He chuckled. "You are unique; you fascinate me."

"Even though you just met me and I've been your enemy?" she joked weakly.

"You show emotion, unlike the rest of your kind. That is an important quality to my people. Do you mind if I ask you something entirely personal?"

"You've already seen me cry, so why not?"

"Why do you cover your eyes? You're blind, but that's no reason to hide them. With your senses, you would be able to fool people into believing you can see."

She hesitated. "Well . . . you are going to be my mate . . . Take off the band."

Zane started a bit, confused as Kyra released his arms. "What?"

"Take off the band. There have been many lies cast around my existence. You should know the truth."

Hesitantly, Zane reached up and lifted the golden circle off of his future Naga's head. The part of her face that had been hidden was just as beautiful as the rest of her face.

"Why did you—"

Zane broke off as her eyes opened to meet his. His Cobriana fiery garnet was met with bold scarlet.

"So you are as attractive as rumor says." Kyra stated with a smirk. She let her eyes rake up and down his form leisurely, taking in the broad shoulders, pale skin, and dark hair.

"How?" Zane was dumfounded.

"I'm not blind. My darling mother came up with that lie was an excuse to hide my eyes."

Zane was having problems forming words. "What—Why—How are they red?" he managed eventually.

"No one knows. Not enough is documented from the eagles' reign to know if it was a normal trait. My mother believed that it was a curse laid upon her by your people."

"They're beautiful . . ." he breathed, his hand ghosting over her cheek.

Kyra jerked away instinctively. "Zane, remember that, no matter how unusual I am, I am still an avian. I am still unaccustomed to . . . contact."

"I apologize," he breathed. "Perhaps it would be best to take my leave for tonight."


Naturally, that was when Kyra's guard burst into the room. His sword was drawn within an instant of seeing the cobra. Zane tensed, and Kyra stepped in front of him. A visible chill made its way through the guard as she met his eyes.

"Is there a problem here?" he forced out.

"Zane was just discussing a few things. There is no danger here."

"Kyra what is—" Nacola cut herself off as she entered the room to see the cobra standing beh9ind her eldest daughter whose eyes were now glaring at her mother. "What is going on here?"

"I will not repeat myself, dear mother, as you so obviously just want to get rid of me." Kyra snarled.

Zane stared in shock as she protected him. The rejected heir was protected her former enemy against her own mother. This whole experience was rather surreal.

"Kyra Shardae, you will not—"

"Speak to you that way?" Kyra interrupted. "Why should I respect you? You gave me away to a man you believe is an enemy, but in the last twenty minutes he's treated me beter than you have in the past eighteen years."

"How dare you?! And why do you have those monstrous eyes uncovered?!" Nacola screeched.

"Because my future mate deserved to know the truth about me" Kyra's voice was deceptively calm, but Zane could see the tenseness in her body. "And he would never hear the truth from the likes of you."

"I believe that she is perfect." Zane spoke up.

"Of course you would, you snake."

Everyone in the room could see him tense like the cobra that he was, ready to strike. His movements held the grace of a Serpiente warrior in battle as he stepped up beside Kyra.

"I will end this war with Kyra by my side to bind our people, but I never want to see you around her again." He hissed.

"Easily done." Nacola hissed. "But until tomorrow, she is still under my control, so get out."

Zane pulled Kyra to him in a passionate kiss of defiance before shifting forms and disappearing into the darkness.

"Now you get out." Kyra ordered.

It wasn't until both the guard and Tuuli Thea left that Kyra noticed that the gold band for her eyes was missing. Zane had taken it with him.