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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7. Chapter 7

Chapter 7

 

Something crashes in through the wall, tearing a whole in the wood. Carson scrambles backward on the couch, while Ryan goes wide-eyed and silent. I leap forward, energy flickering in my hands. Remembering what Dais said about the 'manipulation of energy,' I call towards the flames, drawing them towards me.

I will set this house ablaze if it means protecting my friends. 

The attacker is not human. At least not fully. A strange, beast-like creature coated in fur and thick muscle. Eyes deep sapphire, so dark they're almost black. In its mouth the Creature has rows of fangs, jagged sharp and vicious. 

The thing lets out a screech, and I see the more human part. The shape is vaguely human, bipedal. But the arms are long with hands sprouting grey, white and black marbled fur and fingers tipped with claws. The face is human, without fur for the most part, but with an animalistic snout, covered with thickly with fur. The Creature appears to be wolf-human.

It snarls, fury radiating from it. 

"That's what attacked me!" Ryan shouts. Fury explodes in my chest. Sparks erupt from me as I spring forward, wings unfurling and sleek horns gleaming in the torchlight.

I launch ahead, towards the Creature. Dagger in hand and electricity crackling in the air around me. The torches flare brighter, anger flaring anew in my chest. 

The thrill of the battle surges through my veins, fire and adrenaline giving me strength as they course through me, each pound of my heart igniting a fresh blaze. 

I slash with my dagger, and a current of energy travels down the blade, making the Creature's flash sizzle. It lets out a yowl of pain before it turns on me, and I let my magic go, the leash slipping out of my hand completely. All the control I'd achieved, falling away. 

Energy surges out of me, and I thrust my hands forward, throwing the Creature back. The fires in the torches flare again, coming dangerously close to burning the house down. The energy within me amplifies in response, and with another burst I hit the Creature again. 

But it's no easy prey, and launches itself at me, ripping at me flesh with its knife-like fangs. I stagger backward, blood cascading from a wound on my arm, and another on my chest.

I don't feel any pain, but my blazing rage settles into something deeper. Something colder.

Something deadlier.

I reach towards the Creature, energy encircling my hand. I place my palm on the creature's side and push, forcing the energy into the body. It wiggles and thrashes, twisting and snapping and scrabbling, as I spread my wings high behind me. 

The Creature goes still, and so do I.

Suddenly exhausted, the pain penetrates. It flares within me, sharper and hotter than any anger. 

And I collapse, falling to the ground in a cascade of blood. 

➿➿➿

Dais is the first to reach Estrie. Ryan is numb with fear and Carson is shell shocked, sitting on the couch. 

Ryan slowly makes his way forward, visions creeping in his head. Some he know are false. Others... not so false. 

Estrie dying, blood staining the floor. False. The Creature suddenly awaking and relaunching its attack. Most likely false. Them carrying Estrie into another room, cleaning her wounds and awaiting her wake. True, considering that Dais is already trying to lift her. Estrie waking up, weak but smiling up at him. He could only hope it is true. 

Together they manage to lift and carry Estrie into a separate bedroom, laying gently down on the bed. An actual bed, not a cot on a cave floor or a hammock hung from a tree surrounding Strennan camp. Ryan wants nothing more but to flop down next to her and fall asleep, waking only when she wakes. 

"You can rest after her wounds are treated," Dais states. "Now go fetch me some ointment. In the cupboard in the bathing room."

Ryan nods and exits the room, marvelling at how luxurious the house is. It is something like you'd only find within a town, richly furnished and with beds! Actual beds!

He finds the ointment in the bathing room, which contains a small contraption that smells faintly of feces, a large tub made of strange white material and a wash basin with a shining mirror and wooden cabinet above it. 

He makes his way back to where Dais waits, and hands her the salve. She dabs at her wounds, using a wet clothe he is unsure of how she came across. She first applies the ointment to her arm, where her injuries are most accessible. Next she treats the one on her chest, a much more delicate process. 

"She is most likely only magically exhausted. Using that much Heartmagic is very physically taxing," she explains, and he nods along, thinking of his own Heartmagic, the one he didn't really know he had.

Sure, sometimes he had inexplicably known that things would happen before they did, but he would never have guessed it is anything but instincts or pure coincidence. 

And Carson? Is it also pure coincidence he also had Heartmagic? Or is there some reasoning they had all been drawn together. Fate? Or lucky circumstances? Or something even more, something he just couldn't grasp. 

Dais finishes treating Estrie's wounds, wrapping them in cotton gauze. The bleeding appears to have stopped, but she still remains unconscious. 

"I'll show you and that Day-sider to where you'll be sleeping," she announces, startling him.

"How'd you know he is Day-sider?" Ryan returns immediately, curiosity surging through him. 

"I know everything about people, even stuff they don't know about themselves," she answers, before she calmly leads him towards another room. "You will be sleeping here, and Carson in the room next door. Unless you'd like to sleep together?" She adds, a twinkle in her blue eyes, the gold and silver flecks glittering. 

"No!" Ryan gasps. "How many rooms is there in this house?" He asks, trying to change the subject. He watched as she busies herself with changing the blankets in the bed. His thoughts keep venturing to Estrie, her beautiful, rage-filled face, she is a warrior, honed from darkness itself.

"Five. I had three children I raised here, one for myself and my spouse and one guests. You currently in the room of my eldest son, Sard."

"You're married?" He inquires. Marriage is rare on the Night side, most people just swore themselves to each other and lived their lives. Unless they lived in a settlement, where marriages were more common. And hybrids tend not to marry, or have kids, as most are infertile. 

"Yes, for twenty years or so now," she replies.

"If you don't mind me asking, is he hybrid?" 

"Well of course."

"Oh..." he trails off, the conversation suddenly awkward. "How did you meet?"

"I used to live in a town. Vensie it was called. He lived there too. We met one day at the town market, and I was so glad to see another hybrid. We started talking, and fell under each other's spells. We started a family together, but the town suddenly turned on hybrids, calling us abominations, and we were forced to leave for the countryside," she finishes with fixing the blankets. 

"Is that why the house is so luxurious? You were trying to mirror the town?" Ryan asks, trying the best to sound polite.

"We just wanted our kids to have the best life they could. And they did." 

"Where is your spouse now?"

"He is out on a hunting trip to gather some food for winter," Ryan shivers at the thought of another brutal winter. Winter is the season when the moons disappear, each Return and Crossover going a little bit farther until the moons are on the Day side, invisible to the Night.

It is the start of summer now, the flowers in full bloom, plants flourishing. In winter the ground would wither and die, animals hide away, as the Night is plunged into true darkness. 

"You can rest here. I'll go fetch Carson and show him to his room," Dais states, and quietly exits, white braid swinging behind her. 

Ryan flops onto the bed, crawling beneath the many thick blankets, and before he knows it he drifts off into sleep. 

➿➿➿

I come to staring at an unfamiliar sky. Before I realize it's not a sky, but a ceiling. Painted chalky white, rough and uneven. 

My vision is blurry, my head throbbing. A dull ache echoes through me, condensing and sharpening into two distinct points. 

I groan and shift, my wings tucked uncomfortably beneath me. I finally find some semblance of comfort, and feel myself begin to drift off again. I try to push back to consciousness, but something keeps dragging me down. 

I give up trying to surface, and sink into the deep ocean of sleep. 

➿➿➿

Carson lets himself be lead into the spare room, before collapsing onto the bed and tumbling unconscious. 

He dreams of Estrie. Of her choosing him instead of Ryan, of them growing old together. He dreams of what the lady, Dais, had said, of his gift of glimpsing other people's memories. 

It makes sense, he had glimpsed both Estrie's and Ryan's memories on multiple occasions, brief glimpses into their darkest secrets. But could it explain why he is losing his own memories?

Eventually his dreams fall away, leaving him in blackness of the depths of sleep. 

➿➿➿

I finally manage to wake, and stay awake. I shake off the cobwebs of sleep and manage to haul myself out of bed, emerging from the room in a daze. 

I see Dais sitting on the couch in the living room, sipping aromatic herbal tea. 

"Your awake! Come have some tea!" She indicates a second cup of tea I didn't know was there before. 

I gratefully accept the tea and have a seat on one of the chairs facing the couch, sipping the delicious beverage and letting out a sigh of pleasure at the sweet and spicy flavour as it slides over my tongue.

"Mmmmm..." I say, "this is probably the best tea I've ever had."

"Thank you," Dais replies, blushing faintly. We banger back and forth for a while before, eventually, Carson and Ryan awake and come to join us. We pass the time joyously, all the while I am plotting how to save half of the world from annihilation. 

➿➿➿

He is preparing for the final stand. In a massive burst of magic, he will take the Night. Victory will be his. The Daybloods will regard him as a hero and the Nightbloods as their downfall, the one who finally brought them to their knees. 

Not much time is left. 

If someone is going to stop him, they would have to do it now. Or in the span of a few Cycles. But that would allow him to regain some strength. 

Before he's already won. Before hope is a lost cause. Before light takes all. Before he can move to the last, sudden phase of the plan.

➿➿➿

Dais gives us coaching on our powers. She teaches Ryan how to control his visions, and Carson how to access other people's memories. She teaches me how to control the energy around me. 

Then Ryan announces startling news.

The person responsible for the light infiltration is about to throw his hardest punch yet. 

He is going to finish it, once and for all. In one risky, deadly, burst of magic. And he's going to do it four Cycles from now, when the sun reaches its peak. 

We burst into chaos. Panic explodes in my chest. What if I couldn't do what they were asking of me? To take ahold of the energy of the light and push it back. What if my power didn't work like that?

I had practiced using my own energy, throwing it in deadly streaks of white or condensing it into balls. I had also practiced controlling the fire, and though at first it hadn't worked, I eventually got the hang of it, shaping the flames to my will. 

But would I be able to do it with light?

To find out we move outside, Ryan looking nervous and Carson looking almost excited. 

I imagine grabbing hold of all the starlight, the loose pin-pricks of brightness that pierce the Night's gloom. At first nothing happens. 

I try again.

Closing my eyes, I visualize each star and the light they cast as beam, shone down to the surface. I imagine grabbing those beams, bending and shaping them into a little ball. 

I open my eyes to see a tiny pinprick of illumination dancing in my hands. I raise my palm, and the light follows. 

I sling my arm and launch the faint energy across the forest, watching as it sails through the trees, the Silver birches and the Glowlings, the massive Night-oaks with their rough grey bark and the thorny Massen trees claimed by loose clinging ivy. 

Ryan claps. Carson looks impressed. 

We spend the rest of the Cycle working with the boys, on combat and Bloodmagic, teaching them how to use the deadly art. 

At first, Carson is disgusted and terrified by it, while all Ryan shows is faint intrigue and anticipation. 

We start with defence spells, preparing Sheila spells and Light-Blockers, spells that could protect a Night-sider from Daylight for a short period of time. 

Ryan catches on easily, learning how to convert blood to magic. Carson struggles, and eventually pronounces Bloodmagic "not for him."

"It just doesn't work for me!" He exclaims, as Ryan perfects yet another spell. 

"Keep trying. You don't want to waste blood, and only you can buy magic with your blood," Dais councils.

The spells we are working on now are called Readies, magic bought for and ready to use. 

"Don't worry! I've made enough for both of us!" Ryan boasts, showing off his latest vial of potion, glowing blue. 

"That's enough for now!" I pronounce, worrying about the Cycle we just wasted. "We have a nation to save."

"Yes, so we better teach them some battle skill," Dais announces, and I inwardly groan. I don't want to waste anymore time.

"And plan our attack," I add. 

"Will there be fighting?" Carson asks, concern shining in his blue-green eyes. 

"Yes," Ryan answers, and I get the feeling there's something more.

"How much?" I ask, turning to Ryan. Sure, I expected bloodshed, but I needed to know what was in store.

"Too much," Ryan answers, eyes haunted and glazed. 

"And how much would that be?" Carson snaps with a hint of annoyance. 

"A Dayblood army will invade at the same time the final stage of the light invasion is put into play. Nightbloods will rush to meet them... but there is too many... to many..." Ryan says as his gaze grows faraway.

"How many?" I pursue.

"Thousands..." Ryan states, voice grave. Thousands! If only the Nightbloods had that kind of number! Our population at a total is little more than five-hundred, only half of those fighters. 

We begin working on battle moves. I take the lead in offensive, teaching them how to inflict damage with both weapons and just their bare hands, while Dais teaches defensive, showing them how to block and dive and avoid injury.

Again, Ryan shows great promise, preforming the manoeuvres with grace and skill, while Carson blunders about, executing them in a hilarious display of incoordination.  

Eventually he gets the hang of it, and I decide it fit to leave them in Dais' care, to report to Nightblood camp about what is going on.

I say my goodbyes and plan to meet them a Cycle from now, during Crossover, at the north edge of the Night, where so much had happened. 

Where I had first discovered the light is invading, where Carson had hidden when he had first crossed over, where I had returned him home after his first venture. 

So I say my goodbyes, and suddenly launch into the darkness.

 

 

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