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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3. Chapter 3

Chapter 3

 

I fly swiftly, towards the Nightblood tribal camp. Unlike most tribes, we didn't live strictly in camp. We branch out, living anywhere we liked. We were wanderers. We always have been. Always will be. 

I find it easily, drawn by the light of the flickering white flames. 

"Daybloods!!" I shout, and land lightly on the ground, the grass soft beneath my bare feet.

Looks of fear and doubt are shot in my direction. No Dayblood attack has been staged in over three centuries. 

"What's going on!?" One of the Nightbloods shout. A tall male with blue-black hair, eyes almost black, and sprawling blue-tinged black feathered wings. 

"Daybloods are invading!" I shout, as thundering wing beats sound, driving my point home. I launch over to my hut, used basically as a storage unit for weapons and other supplies. I grab my curved knives, strap them to my sides, followed by my bow and sling with my arrows. Around me, fellow Nightbloods prepare as well. 

I watch, wondering if I plunged them into blind panic for nothing. But suddenly wingbeats boom and anger hardens inside, cold and deadly.

I am ready for a fight. And I am going to get one. 

"Attack!" The cry echoes through the camp, but the source is unknown. We listen anyways, lifting into the air on silent wings. 

The Daybloods swoop in to meet us. I launch myself at the nearest one, drawing my twin knives. My bow and arrows are slung across my back, comfortably resting in between my wings.

The Dayblood flies towards me, and I raise my knife, slashing at him, blocking his blows from his clunky broadsword. 

I duck underneath him, narrowly avoiding his blade, and his massive molten gold wings. They were the Dayblood's, greatest advantage, allowing them not only to fly but they were burning hot, as if made from solidified fire. 

The Dayblood is strong but slow, and I am lithe and agile, slashing when I can and ducking and dodging when I can't. 

He stabs at me, and I narrowly avoid getting stabbed through the heart. But he doesn't miss entirely, and a blossom of pain erupts along my side. I retaliate by plunging my own wickedly curved knife into his side, and relish the feel of his blood, reddish-gold in colour, stain my hand, warm and sticky.

We spar back in forth, my side radiating pain. I land a couple of good blows, before  I finally land one that sends him reeling backwards, not to be seen again. 

I fly away from the fray, observing. The odds are about equal, and blood drips from the sky like rain. Silver intermingling with reddish gold, falling in tainted drops from the sky.

I launch back in again, slashing instinctively towards enemies, ducking and dodging and returning blows. Cuts lacerated my arms, and I relish the mild sting. They would be healed by the time this fight is done. I am more concerned about the gash on my side, which throbbed in tune to my heartbeat, sending waves of pain through me. I ignore it. I am a warrior, I am trained not to feel pain. 

Burns dot me, from Dayblood wings. I silently curse them. Anger and adrenaline make me an unstoppable force, a torrent of whirling blades and destruction. My cursing turns to pity, as I watch Daybloods turn and flee and fall limply to the ground.

But all of a sudden I'm gripped with fear when I see the Nightblood numbers have also thinned. How many would die today on both sides? The spillage of needless blood?

A Dayblood launches herself at me, hair streaming pale gold behind her, and I dodge and slash, stabbing my knife's curved point into her shoulder, and she screams in pain then turns tail and flies away, consumed by the agony of her injury. 

I also take out quite of few by slashing their Moonstone's cords, rendering them vulnerable to the power of the shadows. The darkest magic that runs through the Night air.

Some may wonder why we fight. The Nightbloods fight to defend, born and raised to fight for their side, ready to lay down their lives to protect the mortals. We are powerful, the winged warriors, the horned angels. But we also possess a secret weapon. 

Magic.

Magic, the most powerful kinds that is, but not the only kind, is fuelled by blood. In battle, there is plenty of both available. 

But there is also the magic that runs through my veins, the one that sets me apart from the other Nightbloods since day one. The magic I have fought to hide. 

As I fight, the chains restricting it loosen, and it swells, strong and undeniable.

"Why do you even bother to fight?" My current opponent taunts, and anger surges through me, numbing my pain and fuelling me.

"Because I know I will win,"  I reply smoothly, voice cold with frigid anger. My secret magic surges within me, and I am tempted to let it loose on him. It swells... stronger... the pull undeniable...

Light and energy dear across my hands, condensing into spheres in my palms. I let out a shaky breath, trying to keep ahold on what's left inside of me.

"What the—?" The Dayblood stammers, and I hurl one of the spheres at him, a sneer of laughter escaping as I watch it reek its havoc, setting his nerves on fire, causing him unimaginable agony as the energy fizzles against his skin. 

He begins to lose balance in flight, and goes careening towards the ground. I feel a twinge of remorse, even guilt.

But I remember it's kill or get killed, when your in battle.

I leash in my magic, wanting that secret to stay a secret. My secret. It could get me killed, could be my salvation. It unpredictable, brutal, beautiful. It's hidden.

For now. 

➿➿➿

Eventually the battle ends, neither side winning nor losing. Each side has suffered immense casualties. 

Thankfully for the Nightbloods, only a fraction of us fought in the attack, and only a fraction of those have died. 

I help with body recovery, and am relieved that no one I knew is killed. The majority are of the Daybloods, and we remove their Moonstones. We begin to burn their bodies, while others prepare offerings and herbs for the Nightblood's burial.

I begin to treat others wounds, preparing salves and bandages, applying ointments and stanching the bleeding. 

My thoughts keep wandering back to the Day-sided who crossed over to the Night, unprotected, to warn me. What would have happened if he hadn't? Where would I be now if I had to kill him on sight when I first saw him in the woods, instead of returning him to the Day?

How would things have been different?

I slip out as soon as I can, heading north and hurrying back to the trail entrance to find Carson. I shove the stone aside and listen, trying to hear any trace that he is still there. 

The sound of faint breathing, the clearing of a throat. I tuck in my wings and jump in.

The start of the tunnel plunges down vertically for a few feet, probably about eight or nine, than lands on hard dirt, tightly packed black soil. It slopes down into what appears like an eternity of inky blackness, before it starts to slope up again and leads into the Day side. 

I land noiselessly and gracefully, lightly on my toes. I call out to Carson. A couple of beats pass. 

"Hello?" Sounds in response, and I feel a wave of relief.

"That attack has past, you can come out now!" I shout. The scuffle of feet answer me, as Carson steps into viewing range in the blackness.

The dark is different down here, thicker and more impenetrable than it is above ground. The soil has likely never been touched by sun, and never will be. Above, the darkness is broken by bioluminescent plants and animals, the light of the moon and stars and occasionally bursts of lightning. Here, it is a solid thing, an elegant all in itself. 

We make our way back to fresh air, the stale oxygen scenting faintly of rot and dust until we burst from the edge of the tunnel. 

We begin to trek back through the densely packed trees. Some with phosphorescent leaves or fungi sprouting from them, others Thorne and deadly, some bearing delicious fruit. 

I don't know where I'll take Carson, Switchbloods are unwelcome and rare, and I could be executed for merely helping him, even if he did warn me of the attack. 

I weave through the trees with grace, even with the bulk of my wings and added night of my horns. Carson, not so much. He staggers as if drunk, banging into trees and tripping over stumps. 

I wander, trying to think of a safe place. There is Silver Mirror Lake, with its tall fencing of trees and distance from most tribal camps, it is secluded but a popular sight, often visited. There is also the caves of Onyx Cliff, a twisting labyrinth of tunnels and caverns. It is secluded and unknown by most. 

The perfect place for hiding a refugee. 

I veer sharply to the right, beginning to jog. Carson struggles to keep up, crashing through the brush, making enough noise to wake the dead.

"Quiet down would ya?" I ask, annoyed.

"Sorry, but not everyone is graceful like you," he replies quickly, scornful and teasingly. 

Suddenly an idea blooms, and I endure my wings and lift off the ground. I swoop over to Carson, and snatch him up and fly off. He squirms and squeals in mock protest, causing me too start laughing and almost drop him.

This makes him stop, and we ride in peace, nothing breaking the silence but the soft rasp of me wings against the shadow-clad air. So different from the thunderous boom from the Daybloods leathery bat wings. 

"Are we almost there?" Carson asks, voice light and melodious and filling the silence perfectly.

"Yes," I reply, scanning the sky for the first hint of black jagged peaks. The Onyx Mountains are aptly named for their dark and glossy appearance.

I spot them to the west. Tall, dark and impenetrable. I veer slightly in that direction, maintaining my death grip on Carson. 

"Hey!" He shouts as I sharpen the turn.

"Sorry, but I am heading in the wrong direction," I fire back with a glare. 

I quicken my pace, flapping my wings even faster, gliding for less time. There is no time to dawdle anymore. Every second is another second of risking being seen, by a fellow Nightblood, enemy Dayblood patrols or even mortals peering up through the trees.

"Hang on!" I say as I increase the pace to a sprint. The ground whizzes below us in a blur. The maintains steadily draws nearer.

And so does the possibility of discovery. 

"Trust me, I'm hanging on!" He replies, which is true. In turn to my death grip on him, he is holding me in a grip so tight I think he might shatter me, into a million different shards. 

➿➿➿

We reach the mountains within the hour, spending precious minutes searching for the cavern entrance. We find it, and slip inside. The caves are famous for their immensity, the chances of us being found are slim.

I lay Carson down on the rough stone of the cave floor. Part of me doesn't want to let him go, wanting to linger forever in his warm embrace, to feel him against me just because he wants to be.

Not because that if he lets go he will probably plummet to his death. 

I reluctantly draw away, something nagging at the back of my mind.

He is the enemy, but he is also not. Switchbloods belonged to neither side, to no one. Which meant that if he is Day, he is also Night. And if he is Night, he is also Day. 

Why did he do it? Why did he give up his life, his friends, family, his belonging, just to warn me? What is I worth, an enemy? Sure I had saved him once, when I could of killed him, but is this really worth it.

Is I worth it?

"I'm going to go get some supplies," I tell him, before I fly off, leaving him alone in the darkness of the cavern. 

It's not until I'm out of his presence do I remember Ryan.

I change course abruptly, flying and swift wings to his tribe's camp.

I land in a matter of minutes. My eyes search for Ryan. They spot him, lounging by the flickering white fire, chatting with his brother, Ress.

Curiosity overcomes me. I creep around to the other side of the camp, eager to listen in. 

"How am I to know how it would've turned out?" Ryan asks, tone defensive, guarded.

"I don't know, but how could you not tell she is a Dayblood!?" Ress fires back, indignant. 

"She is using a magic glamour to disguise as a Night! I said I'm sorry, why won't you look past it!?" 

"Because it's not the sort of thing sorry fixes!"

"You didn't know she is a Dayblood, and neither did the rest of the camp!"

"Not until she slaughtered them! Half of them! Gone! Because of your idiocy! How could you have been so foolish!?"

They lapse into an angry silence, so thick I could swear I could see it. In fact, I'm pretty sure I see an invisible barrier spring up between the two brothers.

"This time it will be different! I know she is a Nightblood, just as surely as I know I am Strennan."

"But how can you be sure?"

"For one, she is the most beautiful creature I have ever seen, not like no filthy Dayblood. Second she is pale as the moon, black-haired, silver-eyed and bleeds silver. All the basic characteristics of any Nightblood or Night-sider."

How did he know what colour I bleed?

"How do you know what colour she bleeds?" Ress demands, fury shining in his eyes. 

"Because I can see her veins, and the silver blood running in them, and I know that because I feel it in my heart, which now beats for her."

The two brothers fall back into a deep pit of silence, deep with no easy return.

Eventually they resume their conversation, moving on to other topics, but the tension is palpable, the cheerfulness forced. 

I wait a few minutes, before I circle back around. Not wanting to just barge into the Strennan tribe camp, I pause to consider how I'm to go about speaking to Ryan.

I settle on the obvious plan. 

I walk back around, and decide to approach him from behind. 

And tap him on the shoulder.

He jumps. 

"Estrie! You scared the—" he is silenced by a look from his brother.

"I need to talk to you," I state, though I'm not sure why. I need to talk to him. About what, I don't know.

"Well, I guess, uh, come on I know a place in the woods. It's quiet."

I nod my consent and he begins to lead, and I yearn to fly. It would be so much faster. But instead I stay grounded. Letting myself be led.

We reach the spot he is talking about, and I gasp. A large, smooth, black rock juts out over a brook that glows from bioluminescent algae. On either side, the bank is pebbly and dotted with glowstones, a rare type of rock rebound for giving off light in a sort of phosphorescent process, absorbing heat and radiation and turning it into beautiful light. We are surrounded by tall silver birches, the trunks solid and nearly reflective, the limbs accessorize by bioluminescent fungi.

"It's beautiful here!" I say. A Mithileen bird caws, the sound haunting and shrill. 

"I know, I've been coming here for years and it still takes my breath away."

I clamber on top of the rock, gracelessly. Ryan follows, and I feel my heart give a little squeeze. 

Whatever I feel for Carson, with Ryan it is multiplied a thousandfold. He is stunning, he is beautiful, regal, he is dark, he is Night. 

But something about a forbidden romance is alluring, danger and adrenaline masquerading as passion. 

Ryan leans up against me, and I lean into him, relishing his warmth. His skin radiates heat despite the cold of the night, which I am grateful for.

"What did you want to talk to me about?" He asks, after a comfortable silence. 

"Shhh..." I sigh, not wanting to ruin the moment, but the spell is already broken, unable to be salvaged. "I just wanted to talk to you... to see you..."

"I wanted to see you too."

He presses up a bit closer to me, and I shift my wing so that it's rapped around his back, the other one rapped around myself for warmth. 

"There was a Dayblood attack earlier," I say, and it's hard to believe it is merely a few hours ago I was fighting for my life. My wounds are now all almost faded, except for the one on my side, which still stung but wasn't bleeding and is mostly healed. 

"Are you okay?" Ryan asks, voice soft with legitimate concern. So raw, so genuine. He doesn't fake anything, doesn't hide his emotions.

"I'm fine, but the Daybloods, not so much."

He chuckles, a rich sound, easy and true, rhythmic and sweet. I've never heard a sound so genuine, in all my few years. 

The sent of Greenthorn berries greets my nose, and I let out a sigh of delight. I lay my head on Ryan's shoulder, losing myself in the symphony of his breathing, with his heartbeat keeping time. 

An eternity passes, before our silent companionship is broken.

"Ryan!" A voice calls, and I recognize it as Ress'.

"What!?" He exclaims, reluctantly pulling away. 

''Where did you go?" Ress demands, anger shining in his eyes. Anger and annoyance, I realize.

"I'm right here!" Ryan fires back, and I recognize the same emotions stir in him.

I let out a sigh.

"Same time tomorrow?" I whisper in Ryan's ear. He pauses to consider, and after achingly long moments he nods. Why the hesitation? 

"And same place," he adds. My turn to nod, before I take off in flight. 

 
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