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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8. Chapter 8

Chapter 8

 

The Nightbloods welcome me back. The mood is jovial, most sipping on exotic wines and gossiping. But my mood is somber, and it isn't long until I request a meeting with the leaders. 

I am led to a hut off-camp. It is large and made from wood and straw, decorated by ivies and other climbing plants, richly smelling blossoms dotting the sides. 

Sae beckons me inside, where I see the eight leaders clustered around a table with a white fire dancing in the centre. 

The table is carved from the white wood of the Night-oak, exquisite symbols engraved in the surface, and in the centre, a stone slab that is seemingly on fire, moon-pale flames dancing. 

My eyes immediately pick out the different leaders. The pale and quiet Sae, leader of water. The large and fearsome Gar, leader of fire. Haya, the white-haired but youthful leader of wind, slender and beautiful, with wings lush with white feathers. Fare, the rugged but kind-hearted leader of nature, his warm brown eyes full of secrets. Erika of electricity, her hair wild and darker than Night, her eyes brilliant blue and her wings crackling with energy. Brise, the leader of stone, with his grey eyes and grey hair and bored expression.

And of course, the black-haired, black-winged, pale-skinned, leader of Night, Nesin, her eyes black as onyx and cold, and the dark-skinned and brown-haired Datas, leader of Day, looking out of place among all the other pale faces. 

"Welcome," It is surprisingly Datas who speaks, his voice commanding respect even though he is the most hated of all the leaders. 

I bow, low and long, before straightening up and spreading my wings. 

"Why is it you have called for a meeting?" Gar rumbles. 

"I have grave news. The light has come seeping into the Night, and a Dayblood army of thousands is poised to attack."

"Is that so?"  Haya asks, her voice light as the air. 

"I'm afraid it is. We have a mere two Cycles before they are foretold to attack," I respond.

"And what do you wish to do about this?" Brise demands, grey eyes piercing. 

"I wish for you to send an opposing Nightblood army to fight the Daybloods, while I will take care of the light."

"And how is that?" Erika inquires. She is the youngest of the leaders, and her tone conveys it. She doesn't speak with the same commanding as the others. 

Leaders are elected and granted power over their element, as told by legend, by a mythical god of the Night. But if they are not worthy of the position, the god will strip them of everything they have. 

 Every ounce of strength, until they are dead. 

At least that's what the old stories say.

In answer, I take ahold of the fire, making it blaze higher and brighter and shaping it into the shape of a fiery sword. The leaders let out a collective gasp. 

"How can it be?" Brise gapes. He is the eldest of the leaders, his grey hair peppered with white. 

"Are you doing that?" Nesin demands, her black eyes curious. 

"I am," I confirm, "I am one of the rare few to possess Heartmagic, and my ability is the control—and creation—of energy," To demonstrate I form a ball of white electricity in my hand, summoned out of nowhere. 

 "Do you know what this makes you?" Gar grumbles, eyes ablaze. 

"Not entirely, but it doesn't matter now, does it?" I respond. "I can save us, that is all that should be on your minds.”

"I guess," he rumbles back, voice tight with some emotion I cannot identify. It appears somewhere between rage, awe and fear, a complex mix. 

"Prepare the armies," Nesin states, and I nod.

"You are dismissed," Fare announces, the first he's spoken during this meeting. I bow slightly, less extravagant than before, and exit the hut.

I am guided back to camp by a mortal, wingless and hornless, who gazes at me with a combination of awe and fear. He escorts me back before he quickly scampers away. 

Some people stare. Others ignore me. Some glare. Some gaze at me with pity. 

After Seres, I had mostly stayed away from camp camp. Isolating myself from the rest of the Nightbloods. Some resented me, calling me weak for leaving. Some thought I had caused Seres' death, and that is the reason I stayed away. Some pitied me, knowing how much Seres had meant to me. I don't know which is worse. 

I try to ignore the weight of everyone's gaze as even those determined to ignore my presence shift their attention to me.

I let out a heavy sigh, heart pounding as I think of confronting these people. 

"Why have you returned? And why do you demand a meeting with our leaders?" Someone fires. 

"Because it is a time of distress. A Dayblood army stands poised to attack!" I announce, drawing the attention of the last few who refused to acknowledge my presence. 

"How can we trust what you say?" A different Nightblood demands, and this time I pinpoint who it is, a young woman who hovers at the edge of camp, eyes burning bright like silver fire. 

"The leaders do," I return, defiant. I raise my chin, surveying the Nightbloods. It is a sea of faces, of black hair and shining eyes, of sharp horns and feathered wings.

A gasp. A murmur. 

"Is that so?" The woman fires back, blazing anger written clear on her face and carried in her voice. 

"It is." 

"So we must rise and fight!" The first speaker, a man, exclaims, voice powerful and commanding. 

"You have a Cycles to prepare. They invade in two," I announce, voice grave. Is that enough time? It had to be. 

"How many?" A new voice shouts.

"Thousands." 

"How do you know all this?" The woman who had first apposed me interrogates, clearly skeptical.

"I had the help of a Foreseer," another gasp, another murmur. Foreseers were rare, said to hold immeasurable power in their ability to view the future. No Foreseer had been known to the people of the Night for centuries, and no one knew where exactly their power came from. Is it bought? Or Heartmagic? Or something completely different?

"Who is this Foreseer you speak of?" An unknown voice shouts.

"He is Strennan," I announce. Gasp. Murmur. Most Foreseers were woman, in fact there had never been a reported male Foreseer in all of Night history. 

"What is his name?" The unknown voice pursues. 

"Why does it matter?" I fire back. Annoyance is slowly setting in. I am tired. I am achy. Right now, I just need people to trust me. "Prepare yourselves! We fly in two Cycles!" 

And with that, I lift into the air and out of sight.

➿➿➿

The Daybloods were ready. They numbered in the thousands, but they were unaware of the Nightblood's secret weapon. So is the Nightblood girl who had first discovered the light, but she still thought they had a chance. 

The Daybloods felt like they should be worried. 

They flap their massive bat wings, sending blasts of scorching air. Their wings burn hot, hotter than any fire ever known. 

Soon, those wings will carry them into the Night. 

➿➿➿

Crouched in the bushes, the Creature overheard all of the Nightblood's words. About the invasion, and the Foreseer. 

Something stirs within her, something long lost. She uses a clawed finger to brush strands of black hair out of her face, exposing her haunting eyes. 

They are pale silver, almost white, rimmed with a slim band light grey at the edges to differentiate her irises from the whites. Most people who saw them, would see merely white. But in truth, a pale burst of blue so soft you could barely see it, erupted in the centre. 

Her eyes were the ones who got remembered. 

She streaks off into the Night, rejoicing at the part of her rediscovered. If only she could keep it that way. 

There is a chance though. Legend tells of an ancient spell that could ward off the animal instincts that plagued her, she just needed her mind to stay human until she could use it. 

She races through the trees, the winds whispering to her. 

For so long she had been animal. For so long she could not enjoy human pleasures, like the sweet scent of silvermoss or the haunting beauty of Glowling trees.

What is her name? How long had she been under? What had changed? Slowly, bit by bit, her human memories slipped back into place. 

Her name is Missa. She grew up living deep in the easternmost part of the Night, though now she figured she must be in North. She had been born Creature, a rarity. 

Originally, Creatures had stemmed from stupidity. A group of people had tried to cheat the system with blood magic, using animal blood instead of their own to buy it. 

This bound the souls of the animals to their souls, causing their appearances to change, they became more animal, taking on physical attributes of the animal they slaughtered. 

But then their minds began to change too. 

They started thinking like animals, primal instincts replacing mortal ones. Eventually, they just slid under, falling completely animal. Sometimes they would surface, brief glimpses of what it is like to be human. But they never were again. 

Now though, there is a curse. The Creatures are cursed, and they can transmit that curse like a disease. 

Different Creatures pass it on differently, wolf-aspects through biting, cats through looking them in the eyes, reptilian could even transmit it by touch. 

Missa is cat-aspect. Her arms were mostly human and pale, black fur springing up at her wrists and continuing down her hands. Her fingers were short but slender, furred up until the second knuckle, tipped with vicious claws. 

Her lower body is human, with fur dusting her hips. Her chest is completely bare. On her head, cat ears peaked through her hair. Her eyes were almond shaped like a cats. 

She finds a safe and hidden place in a small clearing, the ground coated with silvermoss and dotted with black nightblooms. 

Using a claw she slices open a thin line on her palm, watching as ichorous black wells up. 

She utters a few words, watching as the blood turns from black to blazing white like a flame. 

A few more words, in a language unknown to most, and the light flares even brighter, and the blood turns into fully functioning magic. 

She unfastened the clasp on her necklace, letting it fall to the ground. It is a simple design, a black stone carved into a smooth oval strung on a silver chain. 

She drips the blood onto the charm, and as it falls she utters the words that shape the magic.

As it falls, it is absorbed into the pendant. She watches, mesmerized, as the drips slowly fall, before eventually drying out. She fixes the stone around her neck and takes off, striding through the shadows.

She can only hope the charm will hold. 

➿➿➿

Carson spars with Ryan, and he's losing. Badly. Ryan is skilled, he moves like a torpedo, slicing and slashing with his daggers while Carson barely manages to block. He deflects hit after hit, but never gets the opportunity to strike a blow of his own.

After a while, he back away in surrender, panting. 

A loose grin slips onto Ryan's face. Dais has long since left them, going inside to rest while they remained out in a small courtyard to the back of her house. 

Envy streaks through Carson when he looks at Ryan. 

Somehow, he had found some more kohl, and his eyes were thickly rimmed with it. His black hair falls perfectly into his face, framing his features perfectly. 

And his eyes. Silver, with streaks of sapphire traveling through them. 

He had everything. He had a place where he belonged, a family. He had love, he had Estrie. Carson's heart skips a beat when he thinks of her, and he curses his heart for being foolish. He had skill. He is excellent at both Bloodmagic and battle tactics. 

And what could Carson do? 

He is great at messing up. He could also ruin stuff for other people not just himself. 

The only reason he wasn't completely useless is because of his gift, but seeing other people's memories is pretty pointless. It wouldn't help them very much.

He wanted to go home. 

➿➿➿

Missa races through the trees, rounding up an army of Creatures. 

If they were going down, they were going down fighting. 

Some, she equips with charms fashioned like hers. Others, she leaves them be. They would stay animal for the time being. 

They begin to search for a place to wait out the time before the attack. Missa leads them, fearless and strong and human. In the mind at least. 

➿➿➿

At the Nightblood camp, the leaders emerge from their lodge to share the news of the attack. 

"We must prepare!" Gar shouts. No one mentions that Estrie had already told them most of everything. 

The leaders share out vials of a strange liquid, blue and glowing. They always drink it before battles, so no one questions what it is. 

Some believe it is merely a celebratory beverage, while others claim that it is a potion to lend them a boost of strength. They are the closest. 

It is called the Elixir of Luck. It makes the drinker stronger, but it also loans them incredible chance. The Elixir does not give them skill, or training. It gives them luck. It wears off fast though, and what the leaders do not know is that luck doesn't guarantee success, skill does. 

The Nightbloods drink up, rejoicing. Most believe it will be their last celebration ever. 

➿➿➿

I return to Dais' house to find the boys sparring out back. I watch them, silent in the trees. 

Ryan lunges foreword, stabbing with his dagger. Carson manages to block, but barely. Ryan lunges again, slamming his shoulder into Carson's chest and knocking him to the ground, and also disarming him with a flick of his dagger. 

I continue to observe, intrigued. 

Carson twists over and scrambles to his feet, grabbing his dagger along the way. darting forward and hitting Ryan in the knee with the pommel of his dagger. 

Ryan's leg gives out, but he doesn't let that stop him. 

He rolls over and leaps gracefully to his feet, knocking Carson to the ground with a well-aimed blow to the stomach. With an ooof! Carson tumbles to the ground, and stays down this time. 

Ryan throws his dagger to the ground, and extends his hand to help Carson up. Carson gladly accepts, clambering gracelessly and shamelessly to his feet. 

I decide this is the perfect moment to announce my arrival, swooping down to the ground on silent wings. 

Ryan jumps, while Carson pretends not to be affected. 

"Hello boys," I say, a slow smile creeping across my face. 

"Hello," Ryan answers. Carson nods in acknowledgment. 

"Are you ready?" I ask. Ryan nods, though he doesn't appear to confident. Strange, considering he just destroyed Carson in mock-battle. But that is only practice. What would happen on the real battlefield?

"No," Carson answers honestly. 

"Well we have two Cycles to train," I state.

 
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