Nightblood

In a world of eternal darkness, the light is slowly seeping in. It’s up to one particular winged warrior to save the Night.

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2. Chapter 2

Chapter 2

 

I fly high in the shadows, relishing the feel of wind beneath my wings. I am silent. I am deadly. I am hunting. 

I swoop down towards the tree tops gracefully. I am deep in Night territory, not a hint of light for miles. Lost in the perpetual blackness, I am alive. I am powerful. I pitch forward, my gracefully curved horns threatening to unbalance me. 

As I drop though the trees, I spot prey. A Greyskin, terrible humanoid creature with sunken black eyes, wrinkly grey skin (hence the name, Grey-skin,) and tiny pointed teeth. They can see perfectly in the darkness of the Night, and are quick and agile.

I descend, slipping a wicked sharp, curvy knife from my pocket. It turns in, suddenly out, and is roughly the length of my index finger. The hilt fits comfortably in my hand. 

I touch down without noise, slipping through the shadows, the thrill of adrenaline thrumming through my veins.

After letting the Day-sider go, I had been craving action. Now I am about to get it.

I launch at the Greyskin, an animalistic growl slipping through my clenched teeth. Anger sings in my blood, and I ride high on it's wave. Silently, I slip up behind the creature. Ready for a kill, ready for a fight.

I draw nearer, knife ready to slice. Anger and adrenaline roars through me. It's been way to long since I've had a good fight. 

"Hey!" Someone calls, and I hiss, the Greyskin shoots to attention and scampers off, depriving me of a perfectly good meal.

"What!?" I shout back at empty air, frustrated at losing the hunt. A mortal Night-sider steps from the brush. He is tall and lanky, body coiled with taught muscle. 

His hair is black and falls to his chin, his eyelashes thick and dark. His nose is strong but not too pronounced, fitting perfectly on his heart-shaped face. 

But his most stunning quality is his eyes, pale silver struck through with veins of dark navy, rimmed with thick kohl that make them appear to glow. 

"Your on my territory," He states, his voice slightly husky but light, the sort of voice you just wanted to listen to, let it lull you off into sleep. I find my heart skipping in my chest as the adrenaline starts to ebb away, leaving my jittery.

"Am I now?" I reply, voice thick with challenge. 

Considering he had territory, he is an outsider, choosing to remain loyal to his tribal roots rather than settle in any proper town, not that there is much choice. There is about a total of five civilizations on the Night side, most people choosing the tribal or loner way.

"You are, and you were hunting my prey," his answer is smooth, not a hint of anger in his roughly melodious voice.

"I didn't see your name on it," I say in my own defence. 

"Who are you?" He asks. I wonder has he noticed my wings or horns yet. If he had, his daring is inspiring. Few dared question a Nightblood.

"Estrie of the Nightbloods," I state with pride. I suddenly shift my wings ever-so-slightly, subtly saying, look at this! I have wings! And horns! And you don't!

"Ryan of the Night-siders, Strennan tribe," he says, a tint of awe to his voice. The Strennan tribe is a renowned tribe of mortals, known for their skill in magic and ferocity in battle.

"Well I guess I best be leaving," I say, but I don't move. Something about the Strennan boy intrigues me. Maybe his defiant stance? His invigorating eyes, so well accented by kohl? Or maybe the way he's staring at me, like I'm the only thing that exists in the entire universe.

"Or you could stay. I can show you too my tribes encampment," a risky and endearing offer, showing one's tribe's land to someone is like revealing yourself naked to them, I time of vulnerability and trust. 

A time of laying yourself out for someone to see, saying this is who and what I am. And only hoping that they respect that, cherish it.

"Okay," I say, because it is considered rude to turn down that sort of offer. Because some small, long forgotten part of me wants to. 

He leads me through the winding shadows, and my heart sings. A strange emotion tingles through me, not anger or hate or fear, but something powerful and pleasant, filling me from head to toe. 

We reach the camp both an eternity and heartbeat later. It is stunning to say the least. 

Formed in a clearing of silver birches, the ground is based with soft grass, white in colour, completely devoid of stones or pebbles but dotted  with pale, bioluminescent moonflowers and silver and black, velvety Nightblooms. 

A fire crackles in the centre, pale silver in colour and giving off little light, more for heat and decoration. 

Kids scamper about. Most are mortals. Some bear horns or wings, but not both, signalling them as the children of Nightbloods and mortals, hybrids. Adults work, smoking and curing meat, tanning leathers and preserving skins, making herbal salves. Some bear the traits of Demis, the name given to the Nightblood-mortal hybrids, but most are just mortal. It isn't uncommon for tribes to host Demis, but in town they would be hunted and killed, this is their sanctuary.

"It's beautiful," I, watching a black-bat flit about in the trees, flying about the glowing orbs that give most of the light in the Night. Purple ones, blue ones, and every shade in between. 

He blushes slightly, a tinge of colour sweeping up his ghost-pale skin. 

"Hey! What's with the girl Ryan!?" A large guy similar to Ryan only wider and more menacing looking, comes hurtling towards us. I brace for a fight, prepared for the worst.

"Calm down Ress! She's a Nightblood!" Ryan replies, slowly but hiding anger.

"I can tell that, but why'd you bring her here," Ress's voice is low, and deadly.

"Because I did," Ryan fires back, teeth clenched. Now that I look at Ress more closely, I see that he is not exactly the same as Ryan, even more so than simply being wider. His eyes are darker silver, and are missing the vivid blue veins but not the kohl lining.

"You should get her out of here now,"Ress replies, and I shift slightly. Something is making me uncomfortable. I inch closer to Ryan.

He and Ress, whom I now assume to be Ryan's brother do to the similarity of their appearance, glare coldly at each other.

"I live on the northside, near Silver Mirror Lake," I hiss in Ryan's ear. "Find me." 

 I climb into the air on graceful wings, producing no noise except for the soft hiss of the wind through my feather. 

➿➿➿

I return home, past the lake and into the densest part of the forest. I busy myself with hunting, eating, hunting again and curing the meat, to keep my thoughts from straying to Ryan. But I can't keep them away, no matter how hard I work my mind keeps finding him. 

I left because I know where I'm not welcome. I wish my thoughts would do the same. 

I fly. The joy is incredible. Lost in darkness, hidden from light. Glee saura through me like it has wings of its own. The true Nightbloods are few, flight is precious. 

As much as my thoughts start to Ryan, they also stray to the mysterious Day-sider a saved. That I let live.

Who is he? Where is he? Is he alive? Could he remember me? All good, frivolous questions. 

He is mortal.

And Day-sider. 

Why did my thought betray me? 

So I soar, leaving my problems behind, the, earthbound, myself free. Lost in the sky. A roar echoes in my ears, my own mind shouting at me that I'm foolish. But I refuse to leave the sky, until my wings ache and I can no longer bear to stay suspended in the air, the strain too much.

It's good while it lasts.

Soon it falls apart. 

Everything does, every good thing I've ever experienced in this life has fallen apart, every time my heart sung it would end up getting broken.

I descend to the ground, snacking on some dried fruit and smoked meat. Suddenly  I see Ryan, wandering through the trees. I don't know wether to run and hide or shout out to him. 

He makes the decision for me,

"Estrie!" He shouts, and I pretend like I didn't know he is there all along. 

"Oh! You came!" I pretend to be befuddled, but in all my seventeen years I have never felt such delight, not flying, not on the hunt. My head has never pounded like this, no matter how much anger has surged through me. 

Why is he doing this to me?

"Um... yeah," he says, awkwardness radiating from us. "Why'd you leave?"

"Because I felt like I wasn't welcomed there, so I left" 

He sighs, and I inspect him closely. His kohl is smudged, his beautiful eyes tired. He looks weary and worn. 

I offer him some dried fruit. He takes it gratefully and welcomes the tangy yet sweet flavour. I watch his reaction, and can't help but to be please he likes it. The fruit is one found only on the northside, on the shores of Silver Mirror Lake. 

"Thank you," he says, and we lapse into silence, neither of us knowing how to fill it. 

Suddenly a rustle in the brush fills it for us.

"Greyskin!" I hiss, and Ryan's eyes go wide. He's clearly never dealt with them often before. I indicate a fairly large tree with sprawling and sturdy limbs. "Climb!"

I grab one of my curved knives. Finally the fight I am searching for. I am silent. And I am deadly. I dance towards the Greyskin, light on my feet. The Greyskin is massive, but I do not fear it. I am beyond fear now.

I lunge forward, plunging the knife into the Greyskin's meaty flesh, feeling the blood poor out, thick and ichorous and black as the shadows. The Greyskin retaliates, whirling on me in a torrent of strength and vile. I slice at it, flapping my wings to fling it backwards in a gust of air.

It screams, a retched sound dragged from the depths of its black and twisted soul. 

I launch forward and slice at it again, opening a gash on its chest. It squeals, and I slice again. And again.

Eventually, it collapses, dead. I am coated in sweat and sticky black blood, but I am still better off than the Greyskin. 

"You can come down now!" I shout to Ryan, who is currently cowering in the highest branches of a Wisthorn tree. 

"Ooof!" He drops to the ground like a sack of stones.

"Some graceful," I say, voice dripping sarcasm. 

"I'd like to see you do better," he fires back, defiant. 

I don't reply, but raise graceful into the air with a beat of my wings, before I descend again.

"You can fly, that don't count!" 

"Does so!" I reply with a laugh. 

He flashes me a mock glare and we lapse into silence. I fly up to a high branch of my favourite tree, an ancient Glowling, aptly named for its teal phosphorescent leaves. 

Ryan collapses at the bottom with a sigh of defeat, back pressed against the withered grey bark. 

"I give up! You can fly, I can't!" He complains, and I swoop down from my perch to lean against the tree next to him. 

"So why did your brother appear so angry with you last time we met?" I ask, curiosity getting the better of me.

"Hmmm? Oh-uh... he's just like that..." 

I'm not satisfied.

"Why's he like that?" I press.

"It's just last time I brought a girl things didn't turn out so well," 

"How so?" 

"I don't want to talk about it," 

I drop the topic and begin search for a new one. But I don't have time. I shriek pierces my ears, digging into my skull.

"What's going on?" Ryan asks, eyes round with surprise and fear, as I leap to my feet.  

"I don't know, but I plan to find out."

➿➿➿

Carson watches as the Daybloods fly on their blazing bat wings, glimmering gold in the bright blue sky. 

"Beautiful aren't they?" His companion asks him, and his thoughts flicker to the Nightblood who'd saved him. She is beautiful, even though he'd been raised to believe that all creatures of the Night were ugly and fearsome. 

"Yeah," he replies absentmindedly. The Nightblood's face flashes in his minds eye. Her striking dark silver eyes, bright with anger and adrenaline. Her glossy black hair, falling perfectly around her moon-pale face. Her curved horns. Her black feathered wings. 

"Are you even listening to me?" The companion says, exasperatedly. 

"Uh... yeah," Carson replies, drawn forcefully from his thoughts. "Where are the Daybloods going?"

"To the Night-side of course!"

"Why?" 

"To fight!"

Carson's suddenly completely alert.

"Fight who?" 

"The Nightbloods you idiot!!!" 

Fear streaks through him. What of the Nightblood who'd saved him? If only she hadn't taken his Moonstone! He needed to get back there, he needed to warn her. Help save her liked she'd saved him.

"I'm gonna go for a walk," He states, and leaps up and leaves his companion alone.

Carson breaks into a sprint as soon as he's out of sight. He heads for the darkness he had visited many times before, protected my his Moonstone. But he had never been caught, until last time. 

He sprints over the dry desert land, tripping over brush and dodging the occasional thorny tree. Unlike the densely packed and lake dotted Night-side, the Day is a desert land. Covered with sparse brush and twisted, stunted trees, plagued by terrible leathery-skin creatures with fearsome teeth and a bad reputation. 

He couldn't make himself go any faster, but wished for wings like the Daybloods. Would the Nightblood who'd saved him be caught in the fight. He knew one thing; wether or not she is in danger, he needed to see her again.

➿➿➿

Carson feels the darkness before he sees it. It's presence is dark and impenetrable. He doesn't hesitate, not fearing what will happen when he crosses the threshold, with no protective Moonstone, not knowing the pain it will bring.

Trying not to think about it too hard, he crosses, and is set on fire. His skin feels like it's being peeled off, the flesh underneath set ablaze. Agony courses through him, welling up inside until it's large enough to burst outside. 

He screams. 

A gut wrenching, 

Heart breaking,

Terrible,

Sound. 

And suddenly the blackness becomes a living thing, grasping at him, tearing, dragging at him, and he slips into his deepest subconscious. And his scream is abruptly cut off.

➿➿➿

I sprint through the trees, waiting for the occasion where I can lift into the air to travel with speed unparalleled. Ryan trails farther behind, crashing noisily through the brush, following me in the direction the scream had come from. 

"Hurry!" I call to him.

It's not until I see a familiar land mark I realize the direction we're heading in. 

North. The direction of the northernly Day-Night border, the place where light meets dark. The Divide. The direction of the scream.

I wonder who and what had screamed. 

Is it a foolish Dayling, venturing to the depths of the Night?

Or a Greyskin?

I don't care. Something magnetic pulls me toward it, and I know exactly the location, exactly in my gut.

I reach it in record time. 

And see the guy I saved clambering shakily to his feet, breath ragged.

On the Night-side. Without a protective Moonstone.

I stare for a minute, shell-shocked. 

"What are you doing here?" I demand, just as Ryan crashes through the brush after me. 

"Do you know him? The Daybloood!?" Ryan demands, and I ignore him. The Day-sider does too. 

"I came to warn you. To see you. Daybloods are on the way," he gasps, weak and sickly looking. 

"So? I've dealt with Daybloods before, and they can't cross over without Moonstones."

"They have Moonstones, all of them."

"I could still take them."

"I needed to see you."

"What is going on here!?!?" Ryan exclaims.

"Ryan, go to Silver Mirror Lake, follow the stream that spills out from it until you reach the Nightblood tribal camp, and warn them that Daybloods are coming."

"But—" 

"Just go."

Ryan takes off, leaving me alone with the Day-sider. 

"How are you alive?" I ask, bluntly.

"How am I— uh... I don't know..." he gasps shakily. 

"You don't have Moonstone,"  I point out. Suddenly it hits me. I've heard of this before, but only with true Nightbloods or Daybloods, I always thought it would kill a mortal. Sometimes, not always, a person will switch sides and survives, and will belong to no one, no side. Possessing combined characteristics of both sides. 

They are called Switchbloods. 

"Do you know what this makes you?" I ask. He shakes his head. "A Switchblood. Belonging to no side, no one. You can never go back."

"Why not?" He inquires.

"You survived the Change once, you want to gamble at it again?"

He shakes his head no. 

"Well come with m—" the thunder of wings interrupts me.

The Daybloods have arrived. I sprint to the tunnel entrance, where I saved him so long ago. 

"Hide here!" I grunt as I shove the stone aside. He doesn't have to be told twice. He jumps in.

"Wait! I might not see you again, what is your name?" He shouts, having to speak over the boom.

"Estrie!"

"Carson!"

And with that, he drops down, and I shove the stone back into place.  

 

 

 

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