The feeling of everything being right stayed with me as we slipped past the Valley's streets and straight to the mountain. Instead of heading for the path winding up and around, Kai simply stopped at the base of the mountain and paused, craning his neck to look at me.
Whatever you do, please. Don't. Let. Go.
I nodded, refusing to question him, my trust for him taking over as I wrapped myself around his neck and watched as talons shot from his paws. That was when I noticed the marks on the mountainside, spread out as if something had been climbing up and down the side of it.
"Holy crap," I squeaked as Kai dugged his talons into the surface, going one at a time. Gradually, the dragon began pulling both of us up the side of the mountain, as if he was a human rock climber. His wing was flap randomly from time to time to help him gain balance, and he would grunt every time he pulled himself up. I began to wonder if Kai would be stronger than Kyra -- she flew everywhere he was forced to climb. Muscles rippled through his scaly body, an impressive display as the sunlight made him sparkle like a jewel.
Magnificent creature, I thought, holding tighter as we began to make noticeable progress. The experience was risky, but took less time than traveling the path spiraling up to the top. Part of me thought that the Queen or Prince would be angery if they saw me dangling from Kai while he climbed the side of the mountain, but I also knew I couldn't care less. The dragon pulled himself up, hesitating since we'd hit a flat part of the path. Kai rolled his shoulders, wiggled his singular wing, and began to ascend the next section of mountainside.
Do you do this daily? I asked him, afraid of using my voice and attracting someone's attention.
Yes. It keeps me in shape, and helps me work around my lost wing, Kai informed me, grunting and spitting a flame out as he kept working his way up the mountain. The answer made me smile, but as I did so, I relaxed and almost lost my grip on him, my one hand slipping from neck. Kai paused, extending one wing so that my foot brushed against it and I could use it as a step to keep myself balanced as I intertwined my fingers, keeping myself in place.
Sorry, I thought to him, I'm okay.
The dragon nodded, letting his wing relax as he stuck his talons up into the next crevice, pulling us up even higher. I made the mistake of glancing down, and saw most of the Valley from where we were. We must've been nearly to the top, since Kai was beginning to feel relieved.
We're here, Storm-Cloud, Kai said, wing extending to keep him balanced as he heaved both of us up over the edge of the mountain, the castle coming into view. His scales glistened, and he took the time to shake himself out before lying down in the sun. Sliding off his back, I straightened and ran my fingers through my hair, brushing out the tangles. We were alone at the side of the castle, the soldiers, Prince and second dragon long gone.
Muttering about aggravating red dragons, I sat down beside Kai and soaked in the sunlight.
Until we realized that living in the castle probably came with responsibilities, which is what I came to learn as a warrior stomped toward the dragon and I. As he came closer, I realized I recognized him. He was the soldier who saved me from Kyra's attacks, but this was unknown to Kai, who had seen the sword at the man's hip and instantly rushed to my defense, curling around me and hissing like a snake.
"Kai, it's alright," I said, speaking aloud to hide the fact that I could communicate with the Darkblood creature. My dragon companion glanced at me before backing off, but he still hovered above me as the soldier approached.
"Cloud. The Prince requests that you begin training today," he told me, eyes blank as we stared at each other. "I am Gene, one of the elite warriors working for the Queen. I will test your Lightblood magic."
My heart jumped into my throat as he mentioned abilities. I had no idea who the Queen told about my condition, and even Kai could feel my fear as Gene turned and began to walk away.
Be safe, Storm-Cloud, Kai wished, watching as I hesitantly followed the warrior back to the castle.
Sitting inside the tea room, I did my best to look confident as Gene placed vial after vial on the table.
"Each of these is poison or a liquid curse. If the Queen is correct, you should be able to drink any of them and be unaffected."
I nodded, reaching for a random vial, but Gene stopped my hand with a glare.
"First, you will drink the essence of a plant that nullifies abilties," he snapped, handing me a vial with a hazy white liquid. "Then, you will drink poison. If you remain in good health, then neither of them effect you."
My eyes widened, looking from the hazy liquid to the green liquid in the second vial Gene placed in front of me. He hadn't mentioned antidotes, and I couldn't fathom putting all my faith into a power I didn't know I had. Hesitating, I stared at the vial in my hands, unable to make myself drink it.
"Cloud. You asked to train, and in return work for the Queen. You are useless without training. So if you want your brother back, drink the nullifier."
I glared at him, but couldn't help the memory of Terrance's laugh that appeared in my mind. Keeping the sound and look of him in mind, I inhaled, trying to gather my courage, and took the cork out of the top of the vial. The liquid was scentless as I put the cold glass to my lips and tilted it up. The essence burned my tongue as it filled my mouth, forcing me to swallow quickly before I began coughing. I expected some sort of sensation as it toom effect, but nothing changed.
I feel fine, I remarked, focusing on the second vial. Poison.
Terrance's smile hovered in my mind.
I took the vial, popping the cork off. This glass was even colder, and the poison was tasteless. I took my time in swallowing, feeling the possibly harmful substances go down my throat.
Then, the tingles began.