The second I finished my share of packing, I was on the road toward the forest. Certain people stared as I passed, a scarf pulled over my mouth and nose tucked into my leathers. However, instead of heading straight there, I made a pitstop at the base of Mythic Mountain, feeling outward with my telepathy. A flicker tickled at the edge of my mind, meaning I was almost close enough to call for Kai at a normal force. With a slow exhale, I called out to the one-winged dragon with a little more force than normal. A wave of recognition flooded my senses before a shadow passed over head, and soon Kai was breathing right down my neck.
Nice to see you in one piece, Storm-Cloud. The Prince filled me in on what happened.
"I'm glad you're around," I said as I climbed up onto his back, the movement feeling normal to me. Once I'd settled in, the dragon began wandering away from the path up the mountain.
Have something on your mind for today, Storm-Cloud? The dragon asked teasingly. I snickered, gently patting his scales.
We have to go to the Darkblood camp. I'm going to invite one girl to the ball to be my plus one so that I can look after her. I trust her enough, I responded, trying to put as much confidence in the words as I could. Rebecca was the only one I trusted to handle this situation the best way possible, and I knew I could easily take her down if it was needed.
I knew I would also protect her from my own people if I needed to. If we were going to be the only ones with Darkblood there, I was going to have her back whether or not she had mine. A wave of pride flooded from Kai, his approval wrapping around me like a fuzzy blanket that brightened my spirits.
Lead the way, Storm-Cloud, Kai ordered, shaking out his neck. His singular wing stretched before brushing the ground, a common occurence for him.
One day, you'll get that second wing, I thought to myself before turning my thoughts into telepathic projection. Let's go.
He recieved a mental map of where to go, and we were off.
The forest was quieter than it had been. Few critters crossed our path, since this time instead of a lone Darkblood girl they were seeing, it was a large beast. Kai seemed smug as he strolled through the trees, never breaking away from the path I'd laid out for us. From here, I could almost send a thought to the Darkbloods without blowing anyone's brains or shocking them into unconsciousness.
Spring will become summer soon, Kai noted, sniffing at the bright green leaves of the trees as we passed underneath. I sighed, leaning into his neck and closing my eyes peacefully. Spring had always been my favourite season, and I didn't want it to go.
Kai felt my silly distress and chuckle in my head, causing me to open my eyes in time to see him exhaling sparks. He began hitting bushes with his wing, sending berries flying. They splattered all around us, some of them exploding on his scales, adding purple to the blue. His eyes, a lighter purple than the dark berries, were filled with amusement as we got closer to the camp. A new connection spurred to life in my mind, and Kai's by the look on his face, and I grinned as he picked up speed. We went crashing through the bushes, creating a ruckus that stirred the camp. Several Darkbloods began to look our way as we burst through the treeline, the camp revealing themselves. At first they were skeptical of the dragon looming in front of them, but as eyes began to travel upward to where I sat on Kai's back, smiles spread across their faces.
Cloud is back, several voices echoed, the volume deafening as I slid down Kai's side onto my feet. He snorted, following close behind me as I approached the huts. Those who were at the bonfire, so most of the camp, rushed toward me, grinning. The young boy who'd supported me was the first to reach me.
"Hello Miss Cloud! My Mum is happy to see you again," he chirped, reaching for my hand. His was small and warm as his fingers wrapped around as many of mine as he could hold, which was an endearing three. The little boy pointed to his mother, almost giving me déjà vu. I waved to her before glancing back at the dragon, winking at him. Kai relaxed, nuzzling the young boy's arms until he patted the beast's scales. After a moment, I heard Kai's voice in my head as he spoke to the child.
Oliver, I thought, putting the name and face together. Oliver laughed before scratching Kai's scales, and I felt it was safe enough to leave them as I strolled toward the crowd. Pushing through the center were the heads of Rebecca and Sven, the two rushing to greet me.
"Cloud!" The blonde werewolf shrieked, flying at me with her arms outstretched. As she hugged me, my brother's reminder rang through my mind, and I hesitated before quickly hugging her back and stepping away. I schooled my facial features into a calm, pleasant expression, hiding my new distrust.
"It's nice to see you both," I said robotically, "but we need to talk in private."
The two nodded, Sven turning to wave away the gathered Darkbloods. They hesitantly dispersed, thoughts of being able to talk to me nagging at my mind before I shut out the connections, focusing on the two in front of me. Kai remained in his looming position behind me, protectively watching every moment the Darkbloods made. Sven and Rebecca stared at the dragon, frowning, before they looked to me for answers.
"He's the Prince's dragon pet. He's with me."
The two nodded, their similar tattoos rippling across their bodies as the Darkbloods began moving closer to the forest edge. Sven stopped right outside the tangle of bushes, dropping down in the dewy grass. Kai followed suit, allowing me to lean into his side as Rebecca and I sat down.
I sighed before beginning my shaky proposition.
"There's a ball happening at the Lightblood palace. It's going to be centered around me as a punishment for running from the Prince, which is a long story," I explained, dragging my fingers through the damp grass to keep myself distracted. "They want me to bring another Darkblood from this camp to show that we can work together. I think the Queen realizes that Lightbloods are beginning to lose faith in their side of the war."
Rebecca's golden eyes twinkled, brightening for a second. She growled, eyes flicking to the direction of the capital. My skin itched as my Darkblood form began to awaken, but my newly found control easily reigned it in.
She's easily angered, and strong. Maybe Terrance is right.
The werewolf, surprisingly, took several deep breaths without needing prompting. Her eyes darkened back to their usual dimness, focusing on me instead of the practically defenseless Lightbloods.
"So you want to bring one of us along to a ball to be judged and ridiculed," she stated, as if it was an accusation.
I gritted my teeth together, sitting straight. "I want to show that you are almost identical to them. That the Darkblood is just as good to have as Lightblood. I will have your back," I hissed, my voice firm. I would not have her mock me, not when I needed to gather up the courage to even come here in the first place.
"I want to bring you," I snapped at Rebecca, "but you need to trust me."
Rebecca shot to her feet, eyes wild. Her past calm was gone.
"You have no idea what it's like, Cloud," she snarled.
"I will never be hurt by them again."