In all my life, I'd never seen Nykyl move so fast. It was like she'd been possessed by the devil itself and forced out of her seat at father's side. I shot up, desperate to follow her. Still, I bowed respectfully to those who remained in the room and managed a quiet "farewell" to father on the way.
By the time I reached my room, one of the maids was waiting for me, looking anxious. She was holding a package wrapped in brown paper and secured with string. As I approached her, she seemed to retreat into herself. I rested my hand gently on her shoulder, waiting for her to speak.
"I brought something that might help, but I didn't want to see Princess Nykyl to be Queen," she admitted.
"You're not in trouble," I reassured her. "You've made a personal choice, and I will never judge you for that, even if you'd have been giving this to my sister."
She held out the package. "It's a book."
"I'm sure it will be most helpful," I insisted. "Thank you for bringing this to me."
As she smiled and walked away, I turned the package over in my hands. Regardless of how little I wanted my sister to have the throne, I certainly didn't want her to be hurt in our quest. I walked straight past the door to my bedroom, begrudgingly making my way to hers.
It was a long walk, and one which left me unable to think about anything but the challenge we'd been set. It was hard to believe that father wanted us to risk our lives after the death of our mother. Was it the illness talking, or had he lost all care for anyone close to him? The thought made my heart sink. Dragons were well-known for their defensive actions, especially when they were due to nest, and the idea of stealing an egg from one was terrifying.
My free hand felt along my thigh, searching for the jewel-encrusted throwing star that was strapped under my dress. I had a small collection in my room, handed down to me when mother passed away. Nykyl didn't know that I practised with them, but then again, she probably had secret skills of her own. Why should I feel guilty?
I pulled the paper from the book as I waited for Nykyl to answer her door. It was extremely old with withered pages and a dusty leather cover. As I brushed it away, I revealed the words 'Winged Beasts - A Brief History and Guide to the Firebreathers'. Thunderous steps rang out through the crack under the door and the handle began to turn. I exhaled slowly, bracing myself for the sportsmanship I was about to show.
"Who is it?" Nykyl demanded as the handle turned fully.
"Sister," I said gently. "We have some work to do. Would you mind if I come in?"
The door swung open to reveal Nykyl, and that ridiculous bird, looking almost as shocked as I felt. I turned the book to show her the title. As she glanced up at me, I gave her a knowing look, and she stepped aside to let me in.