Nighttarius felt sleep slowly closing in upon her as the hour grew late and the recliner she’d sat upon whispered only of the sweet release of dreams. She’d saved her precious friend physically, yet her mind pessimistically hinted that mentally he would not be so lucky. Slowly his eyes opened and he stared at her, a slow flicker of recognition began to warm his gaze and finally he smiled. “Nikolai, you’re alright!” She wrapped her arms around her childhood compatriot, overjoyed to hear his strong heartbeat and feel his chest rise and fall easily with every breath. “Nighttarius, I must tell you about something… It’s secret. Are we alone?”
She focused her powers and scanned the surrounding area, they were utterly alone. Even the royal family had adjourned to a different part of the castle, too anxious to sleep. “Very.” His face was bright, even with the terrible ordeal he must have endured. “I saw the most beautiful creature you’ve ever beheld… It’s a new shadow walker.” Night felt her own excitement rise, it had been too long since the last species had been unveiled, perhaps this one would prove useful in defeating Mafiffyr. “What is it?” He shrugged helplessly then grabbed her hands and pressed them against his head, “Read my memories Nighttarius, you must see these beautiful beings.”
The memory began to fill her own mind and she saw it, the beautiful creature which had sliced her friend into ribbons. She saw as he watched in only awe as a man threw himself to the ground snarling in pain as a transformation ripped through him. His body was bathed in moonlight and Nighttarius knew without a flicker of doubt the transformation was involuntary. His hands turned to sharpened silver claws which dug easily into the dirt, beautiful green eyes melted into bold yellow and his canines shot out savagely. It held the beautiful wolf features, and yet stood on its hind legs with broad shoulders like a man. The shredded remains of his clothes fell worthlessly to the ground and she felt Nikolai’s fear shoot through her. His eyes were focused on the long silver claws, it was impossible… and yet there they were and they were dripping silver.
Nikoali moved to transform himself but then the wolf was gone before he could complete it. Suddenly those claws which had shimmered in the moonlight like ornate jewelry pushed deep into his back and dragged down, mauling his flesh as he cried out in agony. Nighttarius ripped her hands from his temples and looked away, how such beauty could inflict such pain… It was disgusting. “He was looking for help, Night. He can’t control the curse and was hoping I could introduce the two of you. He said the new species was called Lycanthrope and mentioned something about a Council before he transformed. You have to help him.”
Nighttarius shook her head, “Nikolai these creatures are dangerous. They’ve infected you.” He frowned and pulled away from her, almost as if recoiling from the news would change it. “Infected how? Shadow Walkers don’t get sick.” She wanted to move away from him and yet wanted to see more of the creature that lurked within his mind. There was something about it that seemed so natural and familiar, but she couldn’t place it. “The strain, it’s infectious. I noticed it when I healed you earlier there’s something different about your biology. I didn’t say anything to your family, I wasn’t sure if they should know, yet.”
Nikolai glared suspiciously at her, “yet? You can’t tell them anything Nighttarius, your loyalty is to me. We’ve been inseparable since we were young.” She shook her head, “I don’t want to Nik, but think about it… There hasn’t been a successful hybrid shadow walker ever. The Kolpakova Dragnairs are an infectious species as well but no one survives it. Your family has the right to –“ She was cut off as Nikolai slammed her to the floor of the bedroom, his brown eyes glowing a bright yellow, “I will not let you betray me.” She struggled as his hands closed around her throat, warnings flaring in her mind as she felt his fingers extending in length.
She didn’t need to look to see the silver claws; Nighttarius was already paralyzed from their toxic touch. She gasped for air helplessly, a red haze starting to fill her sight. “The silver paralyzes you doesn’t it little czarina? You’re helpless to stop me. How different this must feel for the most powerful telekinetic on the eastern half of the globe.” [Nikolai please! Think about this! We’re friends!] He snarled mockingly, “friends. Right. Well I think my life is going in a different direction, Nighttarius. A direction which sadly won’t include you, but never fear I brought a parting gift.”
He pinned her with one hand and reached into the bedside stand, pulling out a small syringe with a glowing silvery blue substance. Her precious new poison: salium. She’d given it to him for an extreme emergency, assuming it would only be used for good. [Nikolai that will kill me! Don’t do this, you’ll start a war!] He stared evenly into her eyes and smiled a slow cruel grin, “not if they never find your body. Goodbye little princessa.” Her body jerked as he plunged the needle deep into her arm and injected it all into her bloodstream. Suddenly he shook his head and leaned back a little, then stared confused at the syringe in his hand. Nighttarius screamed as the silver based drug tore through her bloodstream, Nikolai’s family burst into the room to find him still sitting over her with the syringe.
“Nikolai, what have you done?!” He stared bewildered down at Nighttarius, “Night, I –“ She shoved him off, abruptly ending his sentence. “Why Nikolai? I saved your life…” Natalya, tried to reach out to her but Nighttarius panicked and telekinetically pinned them all to the wall. She cried out again as another wave of pain washed over her, and then she was gone, leaving the Corvinas royals alone in the chamber. They turned slowly and looked at Nikolai, who could only shake in the corner murmuring over and over, “what have I done?” Natalya stood and walked over to him and struck him hard across the face, “you’ve killed us all, that’s what! Once Tacarius realizes what you have done he’ll have us all killed for murdering his beloved granddaughter. You IDIOT!”
“No. We’ll handle this. I will consult with Tacarius and inform him his granddaughter left to find Nikolai and never returned. We fear the worst and humbly request their help in the search for her… She should be dead by the time we find her so our story will check with the facts.” King Amicus’ plan chilled the rest of the royals, but no one dared speak out against it. “As for you Nikolai, go get caught by some slave traders. Put up a fight and they should post a ransom for you.” Natalya sank to the floor, her body shaking, “how do we know she didn’t go home?”
The room fell silent for a moment then Nikolai stared to laugh demonically, “because she doesn’t even remember where home is. Salium will force her to forget everything, strip her of her control over her shadow walker abilities…she will essentially be human and then the poison will kill her.” The queen knelt down and picked up Nighttarius’ necklace which had broken in the struggle, “poor lost little sparrow… hopefully she lands in kind hands.” She gestured for Natalya to follow her, “I will not betray your plan, Amicus… but I will have no part in it.” Natalya stopped to look at her twin before leaving the room, “you are dead to me.” Nikolai smirked back at her, “on the contrary I’ve never felt more alive.”
Fort Scotia, Swiland
Fort Scotia was a place unlike any other, unusual for even the unstructured ways of the headstrong country of Swiland. It refused strangers with an almost rabid distrust, quickly sending them on their way after quick trades and unpleasant stares. Their council was rarely seen throughout the town, a phantom force which quietly structured and regulated the city from beneath its feet. A mere fifty feet underground they held their council meetings and lived the majority of their lives, only stopping above ground in emergencies or for the exceptionally rare visit to distant cities. The ground level held the tradesmen, a comical sort of lot who seduced their customers in with chipper smiles and beguiling phrases. They had no cares for regulars or strangers, as long as their money was made and wares were sold. Perched high in the tree-tops, armed with unknown weapons, were the soldiers. They would quickly scale the high trees and swoop down on invading forces. Tradesmen speculated amongst themselves that the soldiers were also used for various assassinations, but with no evidence to prove it they had to settle for seedy details and shady rumors.
Today, the average hustle and bustle was chaotically interrupted when a young girl suddenly appeared in the town square and promptly fainted. Although many seemed reluctant to even approach her still figure, Arganus Dre showed no such inhibitions. He knelt beside her and pushed a hand through his thick raven hair, then gestured for a solider to join him. “Councilman Dre, perhaps you shouldn’t be so close to –“. He waved off the soldier’s hesitation and gestured to the girl before him, “I doubt that little girl will be the death of us, but thank you for your concern Dax. Would you be so kind as to summon Dominus Sparrow? I believe his assistance in this matter would be most helpful.” Dax nodded politely and stretched his massive wingspan, leaving the councilman’s side as soundlessly as he’d landed.
She reminded him of a royal with her delicate features and neatly plaited hair, yet she was dressed in a simple blue servant’s uniform with an embroidered silver neckline. “Such a little girl, so far from home.” He pushed a strand of hair from her face and stared into it, something seemed so familiar about it. She stirred slightly then slowly opened her eyes, he was shocked by the glowing blue of her eyes. The glowing blue eyes were symptom of a very toxic drug and he knew its affects better than anyone. He’d lost his only son to it. “Do you know who you are?” She shook her head and tried to back away from him, he could feel her anxiety rising quickly.
“You’re safe, don’t worry. You’ve been poisoned with salium.” She could feel her neck burning as if it were on fire and her hand reached up to it quickly. Arganus pulled her hand away to look, it was covered in a mixture of silver and blood. Dax landed beside him again, holding Dominus Sparrow, he set the doctor down and stared again at the girl suspiciously. “Dominus, she’s been poisoned with Salium.” The townfolk of Fort Scotia were starting to gather and as they closed in on her with curious stares and whispers, she panicked. They all flew backwards as if they were swatted away like flies, the girl screamed and grabbed her head. “What happened?” She asked it so softly, only Dax had heard her.
He knelt beside her and offered his hand, she took it uneasily and stared at him, her face as pale as a winter’s snow. “You’re a telekinetic, if you use your powers then the salium will punish you with pain. You have to try to stay calm.” She nodded leaned against him; her breath was becoming ragged and forced. He could feel her heartbeat gradually slow as she leaned into him and he smiled out of the irony that he was the one that almost killed her when she appeared. Dominus approached slowly, Dax softly said, “This is Dominus, he’s a doctor, he’s going to help.” She nodded groggily then slipped into unconsciousness, Dominus worked quickly, making an incision into her arm and focused. He telekinetically guided the salium out of her system and healed up the damage, but the claw marks and silver were another story.
“We’re going to have to find a Lycanthrope. They’re the only the ones that can manipulate silver, I won’t be able to heal her without –“ Dominus abruptly stopped talking and jumped away from her as he looked into her face. “Bloody hell, we should just let her die.” Dax looked bewildered at him, “Dominus what the hell? She’s just kid. She can’t be more than 17.” Dominus snarled at him and threw down the scalpel in his hand, “She’s no damn kid. She’s Nighttarius Elena, Princessa to the N’Ever regime. She’s 24.” Dax looked down at her then back up at Dominus, “N’Ever regime, the monsters that created salium?” Dominus looked coldly at her, “You’re looking at the creator of salium. She came up with it when she was only 14. She’s brilliant and a damn sadist.”
Arganus stepped up next to Dominus and looked down at her confused, he’d dreamed of a day when he could confront the monster that created salium and now here she was. Yet she wasn’t the maniacal sadist he’d imagined, she was scared girl in an extraordinary amount of pain. “One of the enemies of the N’Ever royals must have gotten to her.” Dominus shook his head, “No, the only ones allowed access to salium are blood relatives of the N’Ever house. More specifically it has to either be Tacarius, Jaynius, or Nighttarius. So either her grandfather or brother tried to kill her.” Arganus shook his head and turned to leave with Dominus, Dax stared after them bewildered.
“You call her a monster? Her own family just tried to kill her. I may not be smart but I know the only reason that a N’Ever kills their own family is because they betray them. If you won’t help her, I will.” Dax’s commander Marcellus landed down on the scene and looked at the girl. “Dominus, can you verify this is indeed Nighttarius Elena?” Dominus nodded, “trust me I could never forget that face.” He looked at Dax, “Take her to Adriano Forest, the Council of Treyton says she is an ally and as such is out of our jurisdiction.” Dominus opened his mouth to argue but backed down as Marcellus straightened up to his full 18 feet. Marcellus was a fearsome Kolpakova Dragnair, a dragon-like shadow walker which stood on two hind legs with rainbow assortment of colored scales.
Marcellus turned back to Dax and Nighttarius, for a moment Dax could have sworn he saw a flicker of sympathy. Marcellus tossed Dax a scroll, “She saved a lot of Dragnair lives, the Order of Varrus also ordered her safe delivery. That scroll is a signed agreement for our cooperation. Succeed as always Dax.” He nodded and stood up, then pushed off the ground and began the long 10 hour flight.