Chapter 23 – Kitaraiya
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Dear Readers,

Thank you all for reading and your support! Just wanting to let you know that I will be taking a week break from posting chapters at the end of Act I.  

'Chapter 26 - Facing the Demon' will be posted up on the 22/06/2022 and I will return with 'Chapter 27 - Act II' on 02/07/2022.

Kind Regards,

JMMatheis

 


 

Chapter 23 - Kitaraiya

 

~ Eighteen cycles of the seasons - 5 Years earlier ~

 

Evening blanketed the Academy of Spyres and the city, surrounding it in a velvet embrace. Lia walked along the hall, blissfully unaware of the stares that were cast her way by fellow students and the younger Masters alike. From the moment she and the Crimson Demon had become one, her demeanour had shifted. Before, she was constantly approached in the hope to gain favour, now there was a fear and a level of respect that took precedence. The rumour had spread like wildfire through the academy that the Chancellor’s daughter and the Crimson Demon were partnered. The few that approached her to address those rumours were dealt with in an almost aggressive manner.

One who had tried his luck a number of times in the past had approached Lia while she was walking with Rhyker, who dressed in more casual attire to mask his status. The jealous upstart went above his station, boldly grabbed her hand and stood between them. The tense moments that followed echoed through the chambers for days. Lia had grabbed the man in a single handed stranglehold and dragged him into the main hall kicking and screaming with her eyes blazing. She then made an example of him before all as they stood there in shock, watching as she admonished the upstart and slapped him to the ground before publicly announcing her partner. A stunned silence devoid of whispers followed them as they left the hall, the other students and academics turning their backs on the one who taken a step too far.

For the first time in years, she felt free to traverse the ways of the Academy without the apprehension that dogged her every step. It was two days past a fortnight, eighteen days since Rhyker had arrived. Sixteen days since their encounter in the pools of the sanctuary and the union of destiny. She placed a hand on her chest as she walked, a private smile lighting her features; by her love’s reckoning they were enjoying unexpected time. A few days earlier she had helped him pack his meagre supplies and laid out his armour and weapons on his bed in preparation.

She did not ask, but a day earlier he had met with Eira. Speaking privately and at length. When he found her afterward, his eyes were serious and he appeared unsettled, as if he had reason to come to a decision that he didn’t like. She could still clearly see the look in his eyes when he told her that she would have to wait six years. A firmness that he could not escape. She went to her mother later that afternoon and all Eira would say was that she had cast her sight forward. She could not see where, not the moment itself or how, just that six years is what it would take before they would be reunited. Lia knew that nothing more would come, that even to ask of such details was already more than Eira was willing to divulge.

Time did not concern her, the simple knowledge that her mother had seen when, was comfort enough. She could feel him in every moment, no matter the distance and for the time being she could train. Rhyker, her chosen was a seasoned warrior, hand selected and approved by the Order of Aldaliss, a knight and commander that would be ready to lead others or take on the fight himself at a moment’s notice. She had read about the old order, those that fought in the demon wars, the whole order crushed to save many. Odessia’s penned memories of that time were few, but terrifying.

She blushed slightly with the thought, she had tracked the scars on Rhyker’s body, the wounds that he had sustained. Asking him of them, her stomach turning as she realised he had danced with death on many occasions. She had been particularly drawn to the bite marks at his neck, shoulders and forearms. Though some were matched with mild tears and jagged marks, the mostly clean punctures were evenly spacing. He had laughed about them, but had stayed away from explaining them. Another small smile twisted her lips as she picked up her pace. His partner had not arrived and the chance at another night with him was spurring her to move faster.

She did not take heed of the commotion and whispers that were taking place around her. Not until a woman’s voice sounded out ahead of her, her chosen’s name being called out loudly.

“Rhyker!”

Lia snapped out of her thoughts, her eyes darting around, suddenly realising that there was a press of people around her. She pushed her way though, the voices around her drowning out the demanding tone. She caught a glimpse, black armour that matched his and hugged a commanding female form, a purposeful stride that left not a sound, the slink of a predator. She watched from a distance, finally catching sight of the woman as she was being led toward the Sanctuary.

Streaky grey hair; cut short and swept from one side to the other framed hauntingly attractive features that were dirtied from hard travel. Her sharp blue eyes swept the hall, swiftly appraising those nearby. Agitation was showing on her face, her tapered brows drawing together.

“Damn it!” she said, stopping the nearest by grabbing their clothing in a clenched fist, “You, fetch the Chancellor…Now!” she almost snarled into the startled person’s face before roughly shoving the man off.

“Good for nothing, damn it!” she yelled, her voice on the edge of a scream.

Lia stepped forward, pushing her way through the gathering, her eyes starting to glower. She could see the armoured woman stagger, lifting a small flask to her lips, tipping it high as she tried to get what little remained. Her hand dropped; a fearful expression on her face.

“Get back from me, all of you!” she snarled, her face contorted in pain as she glared at the approaching guards.

Lia stopped, the hand on her shoulder pulling her back. Glancing across, Eira met her eyes and shook her head, pulling Lia close.

“Go, do as you promised and watch from the distance if you must. Or run ahead, say your goodbyes, but be out of sight before she reaches him. Go.” Eira said, gently pushing Lia back the way she came, “Go, quickly!”

“But why?”

“Go girl!”

Lia nodded, darting between those nearby, making for the back of the hall as she heard her mother’s voice ring out commandingly.

“Kitaraiya, you have no authority here. The guards would have… By the gods! Kit?!”

Lia looked back over her shoulder as she skirted the wall, seeing Eira reaching the woman as she doubled over and retched. She watched in shock, still moving as Eira glanced about, finding her momentarily in the gathering crowd, mouthing the word, “Hurry.” before taking her thin cloak off. In one swift movement Eira flung it over the armoured woman before they both disappeared in a sudden flash of brilliant white light and low rolling boom that tore the air, scattering those nearest and sending murmurs of shock and outrage through the crowd.

Lia slipped into a service passageway and ran, weaving her way past the servants, calling ahead for them to make way. Laela stood at the door, holding it open and falling into step beside her as they ran for the Sanctuary. Ahead of them, Erann opened the large ornate doors, letting them through.

“Eira and Kit are in her inner chambers. A moment at best, now go, he is preparing to leave!” he said roughly.

As Lia broke into a run she heard him speaking, “Laela, come with me. Watch for my signal to get Lia away safely.”

She streaked along the path and ran into the forest, cutting through the trees. Who was this Kitaraiya, Rhyker’s partner in the order of Aldaliss? The look in Eira’s eyes haunted her, the flash before she concealed the woman in her cloak and blinked out of the main hall, scattering the onlookers, what was she hiding? Lia almost stumbled as a muted animalistic roar came from Eira’s complex, the resonance making the leaves on the trees quiver around her. Her eyes widened as she picked her pace up further, the trees seeming to part, granting her passage. In a wild rush, she exited the forest and met the stone path, almost colliding with the wall as she shifted direction and entered the guest quarters.

She came to an abrupt halt, gripping the frame to the open door of his room. He stood with his back to the door, his gear ready and packed, bared to the waist and holding a knife.

“She is here, isn’t she? I can feel her.” he said quietly.

“What is she, my dark prince?” Lia asked as she stepped quickly into the room and hugging him from behind, “What is she?”

She felt a short depreciating laugh in his chest, “She is my responsibility, one mistake a few years ago is all it took. But we are close now, this quest I am a part of serves more than singular purpose.”

Lia pulled him to face her, “What is she?” her eyes strayed to the smooth scars that peppered his muscular shoulders, neck and forearms, a sliver of fear arcing down her spine.

“No…” she said, looking up and into his sharp blue eyes.

He nodded slowly, “Yes.”

Lia looked at him in fear, “Has she...?”

“No, I am the only one sustaining her. I am immune to being turned, of the order I am the only one who is safe.”

“Your thread.”

She watched as he nodded slowly, her hand slipping down his chest and resting on his bare stomach. Lia touched her forehead against their combined sigil, their seal of destiny. Her eyes flared, blue ethereal fire flaring under her hand.

“Lia?”

“For the next time few times she feeds, you will heal almost immediately.” she said, looking into his eyes as they smouldered with elemental fire and pulled him down to her level.

Their lips met in a fiery kiss, Lia pressing herself against him aggressively as he crushed her tight to him, his hand on her lower back.

“Lia!? We have to go, now!” said Laela as she burst into the room, fear in her eyes, grabbing at Lia’s arm and dragging her back toward the door.

Lia stared at Rhyker, her eyes flaming as she let herself be pulled along, “Six years, my dark prince. You return to me or I will tear down every door and wall until I am at your side.”

Seeing his nod, she turned and followed Laela out, hearing his words chasing him down the passage, “Six years and not a day more, my darling Lia.”

She smiled almost savagely, catching Laela’s eye before breaking into a run toward the forest. Less than a few steps into the trees another blunted scream tore through the Sanctuary as Kitaraiya exited Eira’s quarters. Lia pushed Laela on, pointing to her rooms as she concealed herself among the trees, hiding herself and trying to gain a vantage. She shivered as she heard an almost inhumane voice that she immediately recognised as the woman from the hall, but now guttural and scraping.

“Why stall me, Eira? What are you hiding?” the elegant beast that was Kitaraiya said as she strode through the grass, Eira gripping her arm and claw-like hand trying to slow her but instead being dragged along.

“You have grown stronger, Kit.”

Lia shifted, still unable to see, another shiver running down her spine as a dark laugh burst out of the monster that stalked though the grass.

“Release me, Eira. While I am still in control. I don’t know how much longer I can contain myself with that threat on the horizon.” the steps stopped and a tense moment passed.

“Thank you.” she said with a guttural snarl, before the steps resumed.

Lia held back a gasp as Kitaraiya partially came into view. Her skin was as ashen as her hair and she seemed to have grown slightly taller, but the sheer brutal physicality that tempered every step was terrifying. Lia could not help but marvel that her armour still managed to contain her. The monster that she had become stalked through the forest, seemingly at ease as she moved smoothly and with purpose. Lia saw Eira trailing her, her expression tense but with pity in her eyes as she glanced around.

“There you are, Rhyker.” came the hissing snarl, Kitaraiya picking up her pace momentarily before coming to a halt, her breath coming out in bursts.

Lia watched, shifting slightly to see him exit the passage to the guest rooms. He carried his pack and body armour, still stripped to the waist. Placing the pack down on the path, he walked out onto the grass glancing at Eira and held his shirt, armour and cloak out to her.

“Thank you, Sister.” he said, his blue eyes flashing slightly as they caught the light.

He looked at Kit, “It wasn’t enough, was it? You were meant to be here two days ago, Kit.” he said in all seriousness, chiding her for her late arrival.

The monster stood there, breathing heavily and testing the air before giving the horizon a quick glance, “Keep the tongue-lashing for later, I need it now.”

Eira stepped back and away, quickly giving them space. Lia watched Rhyker raise the small dagger, shaking his head as Kit’s eyes followed its movement greedily.

“Stop teasing me, bastard.” Kit said at a guttural hiss, moving forward threateningly, “I need it.”

Lia stared as Rhyker brought the blade up to his shoulder, his eyes on the monster as her breath quickened in anticipation. She could see the glow in his eyes as he made a small cut, his blood beading and starting to dribble down his chest. With a swift flick, he threw the dagger away, his eyes glued to the animal before him as a guttural indulgent growl came from her.

Lia gasped as Kit surged forward, her movements blindingly fast. She gripped him with splayed hands, raising him to his toes and sinking her teeth into his shoulder. Within moments, the savage display lessened, Kit’s form was slowly returning to the woman that Lia had first seen the main hall as she fed. Passionate whimpers came from the ashen-haired woman as Rhyker stroked her head, her tears mixing with his blood as she drank.

A few moments passed and she rested her head on his shoulder while her own shook. Lia frowned as she saw Kit run a finger up his chest, wiping up that first bead of blood and bringing it to her lips.

“There is a scent of another woman on you,” Kit said quietly, tracing the seal of destiny on his chest, “she is in the forest, I can smell her, she watched as she does now.”

Rhyker nodded, his eyes sliding to Lia’s direction as the loud, piercing shriek of a massive eagle sounded high above the fortress. Eira looked up, her eyes glowing white in the night as the first glimmer of the moon shone over the horizon. Rhyker grasped Kit’s shoulders and held her at arms length and she nodded.

Eira quickly helped him into his armour as Kit composed herself.

“I want to meet her, the one.” Kit said as she glanced at his chest.

Eira looked at her quickly while tamping down a series of buckles, “You can meet my daughter when the time is right. That time is not now.”

Lia strained as a heavy buffet of wind off wings hit the canopy from above, another deafening shriek sounding. Looking back to the armoured members of the order of Aldaliss, she shivered. Their words were lost as they walked to the low wall of the abutment. In the distance another eagle’s shriek sounded and they waited, standing on the low wall, watching. As the sound of wings tore around the side of the fortress both Rhyker and Kitaraiya leapt into the black as the final shriek echoed over the city and the Academy of Spyres.

 


 

 

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