I didn't know how many minutes passed before Shade gently taped my shoulder, extending his hands. The little girl, who'd passed out in a deep sleep after running out of tears, didn't stir as I handed her to Shade and stood, brushing myself off. Once I was a little less dusty, he handed me the girl once again, who I balanced on my hip. Without a word, I followed him to where the three horses, Prince and other two warriors were waiting, my eyes glancing toward Andrew's fist. The fire was long gone, leaving no trace of ash behind. The Prince's eyes were fixated on the girl resting on my hip, her head limp and sliding around my shoulder.
"The Darkblood is gone without a trace. You, however, feel a bit stronger," Elijah blurted, eyes unsure as he took in my expression. I shrugged, gently moving the girl to my other hip. He frowned, crossing his arms. "Are you not worried for yourself?"
I growled, trying to express my frustration without waking up the girl. "Whatever the sacrifice, I would save her a thousand times over."
"You aren't some hero," Shade spat, "you could've easily killed her or reversed the process."
Something glinted in his eyes as I whirled to face him, as he'd been watching me from behind. I glared, another growl bubbling in my throat. Something was pushing me to be on edge -- I was worried for myself, for the burden my blood brought with it, and what their reaction would be if this escalated. On-edge Cloud was not a smart one; my mouth did what it pleased.
"Yet you would've done nothing!" I shouted impulsively. "'We should go'," I repeated, mocking Travis as I shrieked. "'Cloud, we should go. We can't do anything for her'. Well you were wrong! I could do something! So I did!"
"Cloud," Andrew hissed, "it's alright. Just calm down."
His words brought me off the edge of rage, my mind clearing. Beneath my skin, my body was charged with cold, electric tingles spreading through me. My gums had gone numb, and I knew that soon I'd become a demon in the middle of the Valley.
Hide what you can, I advised myself, exhaling. My grip on the girl tightened as I used her warmth to comfort my own thoughts until I thawed, waiting until I was calm to open my eyes.
Ignoring the warriors, I turned to the Prince, glaring.
"I don't care what you do to me for ignoring orders. But at least wait until we get this girl back home," I demanded, picking up on his thoughts through his expression almost as if he was projecting them like my brother could.
He nodded, turning to his horse. The expression on his face held nothing anymore; he mounted without a word, Travis dragging me to his horse despite me holding a young girl. I clung to her as he heaved me up onto the horse, ignoring my protests as he shot off without any worry for the girl in my arms. Shade and Andrew flanked the Prince who followed us closely, shouting directions to Travis. My home became a memory in the back of my mind as we road off, my focus on the innocent Lightblood I held instead of the family I left.
That life, the Lightblood family of people with the surname Rose, was no longer what I belonged to. What I belonged to held politics, jewels, fancy clothing, weapons, bloodshed and emotions that could be anywhere from rage to joy to grief. It was what I was a part of now, the choice made by the power I carried. Part of me felt nothing, when I looked back at the choice I made, all I saw was a meaningless void -- and the lack of emotion scared me. But the other part of who I was missed my brothers, and my father, and resented my mother for being flaky. The sheer power of that longing kept me on my feet.
I would find Terrance. I would redeem myself. And maybe one day, my mother would accept me again.
I was pulled from my vows and oaths as Travis slowed us to a stop, jumping down from the steed gracefully. It was bit harder for me, but I managed to slide to the ground without hurting the girl in my arms. We were outside a bakery, one I'd visited a lot as a child. Warmth poured from inside, the store maintaining a homey feel with its creme and pastel pink walls. I led the way, stepping inside with confidence as I craddled the girl in my arms, holding her bridal style. Inside, there were few customers, and two people behind the counter. Both looked up, one male and one female, the woman's eyes widening as she looked at the limp figure in my arms.
"Wendy," she breathed in shock, running around the counter. She rushed toward me with tears in her eyes, taking the girl -- Wendy -- from me. "Oh my baby girl," she whimpered, hugging the child like it she was her lifeline.
"What happened?" The woman snapped, eyes hard and angry as she stared at me. I gaped, feeling Travis step in behind me as the woman snapped at me.
He cleared his throat obnoxiously loud, crossing his arms as he planted himself beside me. "Your daughter was recklessly playing outside and was attacked by a Darkblood. We, along with three others, saved her."
The woman gasped in horror, falling to one knee while keeping her limp daughter steady. "Please forgive me, Sir. I never meant to disrespect the Lady."
I blushed, saying nothing, unsure if I should be correcting her or not. Travis said nothing as the woman straightened, sweeping her daughter back up, and disappeared through a door blocked by the counter. Her partner, the man, switched places with her, inviting us to take seats inside the bakery. The Prince, Shade and Andrew soon arrived as well, sitting down with us while we waited for the mother to return, the Prince recieving extra special treatment.
Though I did notice the way people glanced at Elijah. It was either wonder or caution, no inbetween. The looks he got almost rivaled the ones I was shot -- by now, rumours of a halfblood would be mingling with the rumours that had already spread about me. Those at the castle knew what I was -- except for the demon form part, of course -- and that knowledge had slowly gotten to the Valley, despite the Queen's best efforts to keep it hush-hush. Now that the vampire's words were spreading, questions and accusations would be popping up tenfold.
Not like I can do anything about it, I told myself as the mother reappeared, her daughter somewhere in a closed off room. She brushed her sweaty palms on her apron before approaching our table, eyes lowered.
"My Prince," she began, facing Elijah and disregarding the rest of us, "thank you for taking the time to save my daughter. I, Nora Uzua, am indebted to you."
Elijah sighed, gently taking Nora's hand. "Ms. Uzua, please don't worry. Your daughter was worth it," he reassured her, though his eyes flicked to mine. Worth it, my mind echoed, remembering my own words.
I straightened. Every battle won against a Darkblood was worth it.
But what if the Lightbloods are the worse half? I asked myself, still trying to determine which side I allied myself to, deep down. In reality, I was stuck with the Queen, but I couldn't figure out if that was what I wanted.
Sighing, I pushed the thought away, eyes focusing on Nora. "Ms. Uzua," I began, "do you know the Rose family?"
Instantly, the boys were on edge, wondering what I was trying to get at. The baker frowned, and her partner nodded when she did. "We know the children, really. All four of them used to come here a lot," the man explained, reaching to shake my hand. "I am Taylor, Nora's coworker. I know less of the kids because I didn't work on site as much years ago."
I nodded, remembering Nora more than I remembered Taylor. "Sir, do you--"
Taylor cleared his throat awkwardly. "Pardon me, Miss, but I prefer neutral terms."
I paused, unable to process what they meant, before blushing and covering my face. "I am so sorry, Taylor. Please forgive my ignorance."
They smiled, waving me off. "It's uncommon in our kingdom, I understand."
Recovering from my moment of embarassment, I turned from them to Nora, who knew my brothers and I more. I was surprised that she didn't recognize me, but it also made my job easier.
"Did you hear of the incident? Of the son being taken?"
Taylor, their eyes sad, nodded. "We both did. Terrance was a good Lightblood," they murmured, taking Nora's hand. Her own eyes were grief stricken, staring at the hardwood floor.
"Terrance was taken by Darkbloods. The guards have been reporting back to the Queen with everything they find, but it isn't much. However..."
"However?" I prodded, hope bubbling up in my chest.
"There's a spot on the other side of the thinest chunk of woods. That's was the rumours are. There, Darkbloods meet up to make plans and execute them then and there. No one knows for sure, but clues to where Terrance is may be there," Nora finished, looking haggard. My own heart hurt, surprised that anyone outside the family cared that much about my brother.
"Thank you," I whispered, getting to my feet. Hope caused tears to roll down the cheeks, and the boys rushed to follow me out.
"Hey," Nora called as we went through the door. I paused, glancing over my shoulder.
She smiled kindly.
"Good luck, Storm-Cloud."