Soon after that, I was back on Travis' horse with my eyes shut as I did my best to comfort myself. My goodbyes were fulfilling, but painful, and left my heart aching. To my surprise, my cheeks remained dry as the boys maneuvered the streets of Mythira's Valley. Something in me had been prepared for the reaction of my family. I was ready to train, to see the reports of Terrance's whereabouts, and to get him back home safe, then live out the rest of my life in the castle, working.
Despite it being a path I hadn't expected, the overall outcome had similarities. A comfortable life of work. This time in a castle doing the Queen's work instead of in the home I grew up in working on my family's farm.
The taste of adventure drew me to this path, and I knew that I would continue to walk it. The news of who I was was branded into my soul, imprinted in my thoughts. It was something I couldn't ignore -- I don't think I'd go back to the farm if I could.
If Terrance is dead... Will I still take the freedom offered to me?
Against my will, my eyes trailed to the man in front of me on the horse. Travis was clearly an exemplary warrior, just like every other person I'd met so far in the castle. Those with long back stories, extraordinary experiences, impressive abilities and lives filled with action. Now that I'd been thrown in, I realized that maybe I did like it.
That girl called me a Cursedblood, but at the moment, I didn't feel that cursed.
Gray War, her voice echoed in my head. I scowled, spotting something flash in my vision. Shade did as well, yanking his own horse to a stop. Andrew, Travis and Elijah continued on for a second before slowing down to look back at Shade, his eyes focused on something in the shadowy alleys of the Valley.
"Shade?" I prodded, nerves causing me to tense as he held up a finger, meaning for me to "shush."
We waited, gradually picking up the attention of passersby, who stopped at stared at us with worried expressions. The Prince shifted uncomfortably in his saddle as he watched Shade dismount slowly, no one making a noise.
Until a little Lightblood girl ran in front of Shade, close to the bushes, squealing in delight. A woman screamed as a pale arm with a purple hue reached out and latched its fingers around the girl's pigtail, yanking her into the bushes. Shade instantly drew his sword and leapt into the bushes, followed by Travis and Andrew. Elijah hesitated to dismount, his eyes faraway as his power probably honed in on whatever they were attacking. I hesitated as well, watching as the three boys were launched back onto the road, straight on their asses, followed by a pale humanoid landing on Andrew. It was a vampire, easily spotted by the red eyes and glinting fangs. A Darkblood who's demonic tainted blood turned it into a bloodthirsty creature. People screamed, running for cover -- meaning I was the only one who noticed the little girl was gone. The realization chased my fear away and I slid down the horse's flank. I was unarmed, driven by adrenaline, and running for the bushes like my life depended on it. Momentarily, I forgot about the boys struggling with the vampire and crashed through the shrubbery, searching for pigtails.
There, on the other side of the bushes, was the little girl, her caramel skin looking green, one pigtail gone and laying next to her, the hair cut. Her neck was bloody, with the red liquid gushing from two puncture wounds. I gasped, swooping down to lift her into my arms. There was a chance she was already poisoned with Darkblood, meaning she could be on her way to Death's door at this very moment.
But there was also the possiblility that the vampire had tried to turn her through an enchantment that affected the blood they shared, and that she was about to spring at me with fangs.
To outright kill or to be merciful? I wondered, hearing a grunt from behind me. My focus went to the struggle on the road and I ran out, the body in my arms limp. Gently laying her down where I could keep her in my sight, I watched as Andrew went head to head with the vampire, his one fist alive with flames. Unlike a warlock, he couldn't throw it very far, but he seemed to be doing well as he slashed with his sword and followed it up with strong hits from his flaming knuckles.
I cringed as the vampire took a blow to the face, fire burning his skin. The thing stumbled, eyes nearly glowing red as he glanced from Andrew to Travis, who was trying to clear the area of citizens. Elijah was helping, and I noticed the mark of the royal family on his clothes the second the vampire did. It lunged, heading for the Prince instead of its opponent, and my feet acted out of instinct. My veins felt charged with power as I practically pounced, tackling the vampire with surprising force a foot away from the Prince. He and Travis jumped, startled as they finally herded the rest of the innocents away, Elijah taking a sword from his saddlepack before grouping with the three warriors. The vampire, recovering from the shock of my tackle, launched me off his back. I flipped midair with the agility of someone I wasn't, landing on my feet with alien grace. We faced each other, the boys unsure of what to do as I snarled, not yet transformed.
"Who are you?" The vampire rasped, voice clear despite most vampires having lisps due to the fangs.
"None of your concern," I snapped, eyes flicking to the warriors standing uncertainly on the sidelines. Elijah was looking at Travis, as if he was the leader here, unsure of what to do.
What the hell? I wondered, letting my guard down. The vampire lunged, knocking me off my feet. We fell together, landing with him on top of me in the center of the street, my head nearly cracking against the cobblestone. He darted for my neck, but I managed to tense and shoulder him in the face instead. The weak attack managed to distract him and I rolled into his arm, knocking him off. We both jumped to our feet, watching each other with complete focus.
"You fight well, and your blood smells unlike them," the vampire mused, lifting a brow. "What are you, girlie? Certainly not a pure Lightblood."
He feinted to my right, spinning at the last moment to scratch his razor sharp nails across my side. I hissed, foot lashing out to catch his ankle. The vampire laughed as he tripped, eyes trained on the blood that leaked out of the wounds. "Maybe you're one of us? But again, you don't smell right. Almost like you're a bit of both."
I growled, feeling my body drop in temperature. Panting, I forced it to rise back up and keep me Lightblood. I didn't need rumours of a demon circling around Mythira.
You won't win this, love, the vampire's voice sneered in my mind. I almost outright roared, flying forward with my fist raised.
Not in that form, the voice added as the vampire caught my fist in his hand, the other arm wrapping around my body like a steel cage that pinned my other arm to my side. I struggled, and finally the boys began to realize I wasn't winning since I was refusing to shift. They gasped, running forward with their swords raised, before the vampire spun me around, effectively pinning both arms down and trapping me against his chest.
"Now, now," the vampire said in a teasing voice, "we best not be too hasty. We don't want to test the halfblood's abilities today, do we?"
Halfblood. Even though there was no one in sight, I knew the word would spread. People who knew me would confirm the rumours, and soon Mythira would know that I existed.
I, Storm-Cloud Katlyn Rose, was a halfblood. Gray One. Cursedblood.
And now my kingdom would be finding out.