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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6. Chapter 6

Chapter 6

 

"Who is???" I demand, flapping my wings and sending drops of brightly glowing water everywhere.

"Daybloods!" He pants, "an army! Protected—" gasp for breath, "—by Moonstones!" 

How could a whole army be outfitted with Moonstones? They were rare, the magic they possess costly and the stones themselves native only to the Night side. They were a rarity, and for a whole army to be protected by them appears just a little fishy. 

"You guys stay here. I'm going to fight," I say, hurrying to dress even though I'm still wet, before strapping my weapons belt to my waist and slinging a couple of daggers into it. 

"What!? Why do we have to stay here!?" Carson replies in annoyance, anger shining. 

"Because, for one, you can't fly, and Daybloods and Nightbloods can," I shiver at the thought of the Dayblood's scorching bat-like wings,  leathery and noisy. "And secondly you are untrained, unarmed and mortal," I say the word without disgust, just stating a fact, but earn glares fro, both of the boys. 

"We can help!" Carson insists, forever stubborn, overconfident and undereducated, a toxic combination. 

"No you can't," I state, trying to keep the bight out of my tone. "You are waiting my time. The daggers are over in the corner with the rest of our supplies." 

So I take off, my wings now dried, my exhaustion relieved by the healing waters of the pool. The sound of booming wingbeats draws my attention, and I draw sharply to the direction of the noise. 

Nightbloods have already engaged the Daybloods in combat, and I realize Carson wasn't kidding when he said they were an army. 

There had to be at least three-hundred of them. Outnumbering the Nightbloods measly defence six-to-one. 

I plunge into the fray, but to my surprise I don't draw my daggers, but call on my magic, scorching the Daybloods with the cold burn of the white energy. 

I fall twenty Daybloods in one swoop, flinging energy and channeling it towards them, before I flap a bit higher above the chaos. 

The Daybloods have the advantage in numbers, but for the Nightbloods we are on our home turf, and outmatch them in skill and strength easily. 

I dive again, continuing to blaze them with my magic, no longer afraid, no longer hiding it. What had changed in those caves? I don't know, but I am certainly enjoying it. 

Within minutes the Nightbloods show clear victory. The Dayblood number is nearly half, only partially thanks to my magic.

"Surrender!" It's unsure where the cry comes from, a Nightblood pushing the Daybloods to quit fighting or a Dayblood still hoping to beat the Nightbloods. 

"Never!" A voice booms in response, and I recognize it to be distinctly Nightblood.

The battle continues to rage, high in the sky, and I fight until my wings grow tired. Blood rains down in a gold and silver storm. The Daybloods continue to fall, Nightbloods inching closer and closer to victory. I use my magic to fight, but feel like it's growing weaker with each burst or blast. 

I am going to have to work on a way to preserve it throughout a fight so I don't end up suddenly dropping from the sky, exhausted. 

"Retreat!" The cry soars above the noise of the battle, loud and booming. Immediately both sides ceasefire, panting and exhausted. 

The Daybloods begin to slowly back away, and as soon as they're out of firing range they turn around and fly in a sprint back towards their sunlight, the sound of their wingbeats echoing across all of the Night. 

I fly with the Nightbloods back to camp, having no intentions of staying once I arrive. 

We touch down at the clearing a few minutes later. The grass tickle my bare feet, the wind whistling through the trees. 

I help clean some of the wounds, but remarkably many Nightbloods are barely injured, inflicted only with small cuts or scrapes. 

How had we won so easily? The Daybloods outnumbered us greatly, six to one if my count had been correct, but still we emerged victorious. Is it just natural power? Or is something else going on. 

I decide I need to find out. 

"We fought well!" One of the leaders boom. In Nightblood culture there is eight leaders, one for each element. Air, water, fire, nature, electricity, stone, and of course, night and day. 

According to folklore, each leader has control over the element they're titled for, but it has never been confirmed and the leaders have never said anything about it. 

"We drove them back, despite our numbers being smaller," the leader continues. It is Sae, leader of water. She wears a deep sapphire dress that falls to the ground and flows languidly on the breeze. 

A chorus of cheers erupt in response to her words. Sae does not speak often, but when she does her voice is nothing but commanding.

Her blond hair glints in the moonlight, pale silver cascading down her shoulders. Her eyes, pale blue, glow vibrant cobalt. Her wings are pale, whitish-silver, tinged with frosty blue at the edges. Her horns are slender and white, almost glowing, as if carved from Moonstone. 

"How is it possible!?" Someone cries, one of the soldiers who had fought faithfully on the battle. 

"How is what possible?" A different leader rumbles. Gar, leader of fire, come into view. 

He is the dark to Sae's light, with black hair darker than the Night sky and eyes a shifting kaleidoscope of shades, yellow and orange and gold and scarlet.  His wings are billowing and black, his horns thick and soot-stained. 

"How is our victory possible? When I fought, I didn't... I..." he stutters, unsure of his words. I study him. He is short, and rather... plump, with black hair peppered with grey and eyes a greenish-teal colour. 

"Our victory is because we are stronger, wether or not our number are greater," Gar states, his voice containing a deadly anger that suggests no one presses the topic. 

The man who had spoken lowers his gaze, and I remark on how he appears much older than most Nightbloods. The aging process of Nightbloods is different from that of mortals, we age at about a fifth of the rate they did, but of course most tend not to live much longer than mortals, because of constant battles and skirmishes, natural illness and just plain poor fortune. 

Curiosity still shines in most people's eyes, but no asks farther questions. How had we won? Something inside me is telling me that, somehow, magic is involved. 

But that is a mystery for another day. 

Right now, I needed to get back to the caves to make sure Ryan and Carson didn't kill each other.

"See ya," murmur to the Nightbloods, but no one appears to hear. I scramble for an excuse for the leaders, and one comes tumbling out. "I'm gonna go make sure the border is secure," I say to Gar. He nods in approval, and I take off without a second glance.

I do actually check the borders, but not to see if the Daybloods have left, in fact, that is at the very back of my mind. 

I want to see if the light has seeped in any farther. 

➿➿➿

His strength is returning. But with it come worries. What of the Nightblood and the mortals who had discovered the plan he had put into action? They could be trouble...

No! He refuses to think of himself failing. He didn't fail. He wouldn't fail. Soon enough, the Night would be his. 

➿➿➿

Carson had used up most of his self-control by now, and is coming dangerously near to strangling Ryan. He teeters on the edge of the amnesia that plagued him, slowly, bit by bit, his memories fade. 

The more recent ones, of the Night and of Estrie and Ryan and the caves, are vibrant as ever in his mind. 

It is those of the Day that are fading.

➿➿➿

Ryan awaits Estrie's return by the pool. Carson paces restlessly behind him, and he can feel his poisoned gaze sometimes sliding over to glare at him. 

He stares into the water, thinking of how it healed him. 

What had even caused his injuries in the first place? All he can remember is the streak of black across the star-illuminated sky, and the pain in his shoulder when the thing hit him. It had looked human, but had fangs like an animal, and fur too. 

I raised my hands to defend myself, and they hit a solid wall of muscle... coated by fur. 

The memories replay in his head. The searing pain in his shoulder. The inhuman beast that had caused it. 

Thankfully he isn't forced to relive it for long, because Estrie arrives, looking bedraggled, black hair windswept and tangled, silver eyes haunted. 

➿➿➿

To my surprise, both Carson and Ryan are still alive and have not yet strangled each other. 

Ryan sits by the pool, but leaps up and rushes towards me, concern creasing his face. 

I wonder how I look. I wasn't injured in the battle, at least to my knowledge. But I am most likely disheveled and dirty, at least on the outside. On the inside I am much worse. 

"Are you okay?" He asks, and the legitimate concern in his voice makes my heart flutter. 

"I think," I reply with a laugh, that sounds strange. Tinny and false, not light and humorous like laughs should be.

Carson grunts. Before he grudgingly walks over. 

"I have news," I announce, and watch as curiosity and dread crosses the faces of both Carson and Ryan, and i feel a hint of success towards the fact that no matter how much they hate each other, they still react the same way to my statement. 

"Good or bad?" Carson asks, the first words he's spoken since my return. 

"Terrible," I answer, my face grave. "The light has pressed in farther."

"What!?" Ryan exclaims, outraged. A torn look crosses Carson's face, as if he's still not sure where his loyalties lie.

"We knew it was going to happen. We need to fight back. And I know someone who just might be able to tell us how."

I beckon to the boys to follow me, and they do. I launch into flight, hovering in front of the cave entrance. I watch their looks of confusion, before swooping back down and landing on the cave edge.

"It's a three day walk, you guys up for it?" I ask, "considering you can't make the barely thirty hour flight?" 

"Don't rub it in..." Carson mumbles, absentmindedly. 

"Come on, lets get walking," I answer, and begin the trek down the mountainside, Ryan following behind and Carson bringing up the very rear. 

We travel in silence mostly, having to much room to think. My thoughts wander, and fear churns deep in my gut, sickening. 

"How much longer!?" Ryan exclaims, suddenly breaking the silence. The quiet suddenly shatters like thin glass, and we begin chatting, the two guys glaring daggers at each other, but seeming to have come to an uneasy truce. 

"Three days," I return. We banter easily back and forth, trying to pretend the world wasn't ending. And doing a pretty good job.

➿➿➿

A Cycle into our travels, we are tired and weary. I loose track of time, wether it's Return or Crossover, just trek my way through the tightly packed Night forest. 

I had packed minimal supplies, some dried fruit to gnaw on, some first aid supplies, and a couple changes of clothes each, the male clothes stolen—ur, borrowed—from the Nightblood camp, the ones for myself from my own collection, all with the backs out for room of my wings. 

I also brought my daggers and throwing knives, strapped to my waist with my trusty weapons belt.

We have long lapsed into silence, focusing on merely getting from point a to b. 

"Let's rest," I declare, and Carson gladly flops down on the spongy and pungent smelling silvermoss, releasing a small burst of the sweet yet sharp scent. 

"You sure?" Ryan inquires. "We still have a way to go yet." 

"We need to keep our strength up," and with that, Ryan joins Carson on the silvermoss, releasing a second burst of fragrance.

I collapse next to Ryan, breathing in the aroma of the silvermoss. The pale coloured moss is famous for its scent, a lovely fragrance with sweet, earthen hints, topped with the delicate perfume that appears distinctly flower like, sweet and natural and light. 

I dig into the Greyskin leather satchel I brought, pulling out some dried fruit and passing it to Carson and Ryan, before taking some for myself. 

We sit in silence, chewing thoughtfully on the fruit. At some point we will need to find water and a more sustainable food source, but right now, I find myself drifting off into a deep, dreamless sleep, Ryan and Carson not far behind me. 

➿➿➿

We travel for two more Cycles. Hunting for food when we got hungry and resting when we got tired. Finally, we reach our destination, with no hassle, other than the constant complaining of Carson. 

"A hut! Civilization!" Squeals Carson, racing forward when he sees the small shack. "Hut" is a bit of an understatement. The walls were thick wood, covered with a coating of a sealant to keep rain water out. The roof is made of wood plates, interlocking, and covered with an even thicker coating of the sealant. 

I walk up and knock on the door, and a few moments later, it swings open, revealing an elderly woman.

"Hello," she greets, voice flowing smoothly. "What brings you here?"

"My name is Estrie. I hear you may be able to help me."

"With what?"

"It's a long story..." she becomes us inside. Her hair is white and silky, braided over her shoulder. Her eyes are twinkling blue, with vibrant streaks of gold and silver streaking through them. But that isn't her most strange feature, no, that would be the thick, twisted horns sprouting from the top of her skull.

"Have a seat," she says, indicating a set of couches and chairs as we enter the main room. I delicately sit down, carefully manoeuvring my wings so that they are tucked behind me. 

The woman is Sriss, a fracture tribe of the Strennan, forged by hybrids who had demanded higher status within the Strennan tribe, but were refused. In the eyes of the Strennans, everyone is equal, wether Night-sider, Nightblood or hybrid. But hybrids, who were a minority within the tribe, wanted more, so they formed their own tribe, the Sriss, an exclusively hybrid tribe, with the same basic beliefs as the Strennan, but eventually became more independent and different in their customs. 

"I am Dais of the Sriss," the woman introduces herself.

"Estrie of the Nightbloods," I return with an inclination of my head.

"Ryan of the Strennan," Ryan adds, brushing black hair from his eyes. Today he wears no kohl, having run out along the journey, and his eyes appear strangely bare. It is Strennan custom for males to wear plain black kohl, while the woman indulged in coloured eye powders and facial paints, decorating themselves. 

"Carson, of, uh..." he trails off, obviously unsure what to say. His hair, now more silver than gold, gleams in the low light. 

The room is illuminated by flickering white-fire torches and drifting bioluminescent orbs, small incense diffusers dotting the room, burning and releasing wafts of sharp aromas. 

"Have no tribe, son? Are you Town-dweller or maybe an Exile?" Dais suggests, her voice showing hints of an accent. 

"Hu bores," I say, meaning 'wanderer' in Sriss language. There is many language spoken on the Night-side, at least one per tribe, but most simply speak the general language of both the Night and Day. I speak five, Sriss, Strennan, Magu, Niha—the language of the Nightbloods—and the global language, titled Daiht, meaning to "both halves" or "two halves." 

She nods, a faint smile tugging at the corner of her lips. 

"So what brings you here?" He asks in Daight. 

"Light is seeping in into the Night," I state, "we believe a powerful Day-sider is using Bloodmagic to spread the sunlight into the dark."

"And you want me to tell you how to stop him?" She questions. 

"Yes." 

"Well, the easiest way to stop him would be to simply kill him, but to reverse whatever damage he has already done, you will need him alive," Dais says solemnly. 

"How would you reverse it?" Ryan pipes up. Carson has fallen silent, staring intently at his feet.

"There is two ways. One, you rework the spell he is using and allow him to continue, without him knowing that he is now buying dark instead of light. The second, more risky one, is too get him too reverse the spell himself, because only he can undo what he's done." 

"Is there any other way?" I ask, feeling the full weight of the task that lies ahead. 

"Well..." she trails off into thought, reflecting. "There is the option that you fight his magic with your own,"

"Mine?" I ask, eyes going wide with the shock of her words. Did she know about my magic?

"I know all about your magic," she says, as if reading my mind. "In fact, I probably know more about it than even you do." 

"How is that?" I demand.

"Do you know the full depth of your power?" She questions in answer. I don't respond. "What about Carson's? Or Ryan's?" 

"What!?" The two boys exclaim in unison. 

"Ryan, you have predictive abilities. You can see the future," Ryan's eyes grow wide, as if something finally makes sense.

"What about me?" Carson demands. 

"You can see other people's memories, and feel the emotions attached to those memories," she tells him. Carson blinks in response. 

"How do you know these things? And how do these powers work?" I interrogate. 

"I know everything about everyone. That is my gift," she explains. "And there is more to yours than you know." 

"More how?" 

"It could hold the key to saving the Night." 

"How?" I am starting to grow frustrated. 

"Your ability is the manipulation of energy. You could, theoretically use it to reverse the magic that has been used to push light over into our side."

"Where do these abilities even come from? And how come I didn't know about them before now?" Carson challenges. 

Before Dais has a chance to answer, a terrible crash echoes throughout the house. 

 
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