Chapter 4 Alexa
“Alexa, please! Let me go with you, you can't possibly risk getting captured again!” Damon begs, following me around the armoury as I prepare my weapons. “You've made your point, I shouldn't have made you look weak, and I'm sorry, I can't stress that enough! I'm sorry! But seriously, this is like suicide! You can't expect your luck to hold out forever!” He puts his hand on mine as I am polishing my sword. “Please, I'm begging you, if you really have to go, let me come with you.” His violet eyes meet mine, I can see the sheer desperation in them, and the very slight flinch as they fix on my red and gold ones. I know how he feels about the red, he hates it, he hates that Viera has left me her problems, and most of her eye colour. I've seen his nightmares as he's slept, of me turning out just like my sister, leaving him utterly alone in the world.
“Damon, I have to go. Besides, I'll be in this realm, I can take anything.” I say in earnest. He doesn't believe me, he's trying to, I can see the internal war in his eyes, but still he pleads.
“Alexa,” He whispers, “please don't do this.” I almost cry at the look of pure terror on his face, but pull myself together.
“Damon, I have no choice. I have to go, and to prove myself, I must go alone.” As I say this, a part of me tells me not to care what they think, and to just let Damon come along. I try and ignore that part, until it reminds me that I would never have done it alone before Viera died. Why isolate myself from him? What is the sense in it?
“Alexa, the thought of losing you again.. it's tearing me up just thinking about it! I'm coming with you even if you tell me to stay.” He vows, holding my gaze. I try to resist him, but know he means it, I can't win. I let my eyes drop and carry on polishing my sword. “And before you try using Nix as an excuse to make me stay behind, I've managed to get Prince Sharkin to look after her, you know how good he is with kids.” he says, picking up several throwing knives.
I sigh, dread roiling around inside me, something's going to go wrong, I just know it. I sheathe my sword, grab my bow, load my quiver with as many arrows as it will carry, and pick up a hunting knife as an afterthought. I test the string on my bow and put on my wrist guard to be sure.
Damon takes me into his arms and holds me close a moment, I know he can sense my anxiety. “It's going to be okay, I promise.” He whispers in my ear, and kisses the top of my head before taking my hand and walking with me out of the house. We do a last minute check of our weapons before grabbing a Kalenta fruit each and taking to the skies. I sense someone watching us, but cast that thought aside, after all, who is there to watch us?
The red sun in the sky catches my blue scales, making them glitter as I fly. Damon bats me with his wing and dives, laughing. I follow, trying to do the same, but he's getting good at evasive manoeuvres, though not as good as I am. I manage to dive, bump my wing against his, and pull up and away before he can get his revenge. He manages to grab me from behind and I let him think he's winning as he pulls me into a spiral dive, and I even let him think I'm scared, by squealing a bit, but then I spread my wings wide and pull up, then I break free and before he can react, I pin his wings and pull mine in, putting us into a seemingly uncontrollable freefall. He swears, but trusts me, and about a metre from the ground, I take control once more, pull up to a safe height, and let him control his own flight. He doesn't try anything else, and I laugh.
“Does this mean I win?” I call.
“Hmmm, I'll have to get back to you on that!” He chuckles, and we fly in silence for a while. We are heading north, not as far as the mountains, but to about the location of Prince Tonla's death. The howling of the wind in our ears is deafening this far north, so we use telepathy to communicate instead.
So, any luck on finding a way to bring Viera back as she was? Damon asks.
Unfortunately not, every book I've read just says little snippets about the amount of venom you have to inject for certain circumstances, but it warns that only half vampires can be made or brought back that way, so there's got to be something else involved!
Are you sure that Viera being a half vampire would be that bad?
Of course it would be! She wouldn't be able to take back her title or her Honour Court placement, leaving me stuck in there! I hate it, Damon, I've already had to execute three criminals, it's horrible, they plead and beg for their lives, and I hate being the one to have to, well, kill them.
Ah, I didn't think about that, sorry.
Don't worry about it. We are silent for a while, just flying north. It begins to get cold, which is bad for my wings, as they are dragon wings, and dragons are cold blooded. They get a little resistant to my demands, but I push on stubbornly, determined not to stick around in the North for long, just to get the mission over and done with.
Be careful there, you don't want to damage your wings. Damon warns me, sensing my discomfort, and slows a little for my sake, but I am sure to make it clear that slowly freezing wings are not going to slow me down, I've had worse than this.
“I told you so.” Damon mutters, dumping his pile of wood on the snowy ground.
“I know, I know, stop rubbing it in!” I moan, trying to hold back tears as my aching, frozen wings give an uncontrollable spasm of movement to try and warm themselves. He looks pointedly at me and I light the fire for him, before curling up on the snow, a small, pained whine escaping me as my wings refuse to fold against my back. Damon sighs and heals the worst of the damage, but he can't do anything about the temperature. Normally I'd set myself or my wings on fire to warm them, but in the North, that's like wrapping yourself in lights and holding up a giant sign saying 'EASY TARGET' in big red letters. So really, it's pretty much a 'suck it up' attitude from here on out.
It's getting dark, but we keep the fire going for a while, trying to warm up. There is one point where my wings hurt so much I nearly put them into the campfire, but Damon stops me before I cause them more damage. He pulls me close as the fire burns down, and tries his best to keep my wings from freezing through the rest of the night. He hums a tune I recognise, it's an old song, he plays it on the piano at home. I've always loved that song, every so often I'd even be lucky enough to hear him sing it along with the piano. I've tried learning it of course, but it isn't the same when I sing it. He hums it for quite a while, while the glowing embers of the fire go out in the snow that has started to fall, I close my eyes and let the song play in my head as well as in Damon's voice. Though I'm freezing cold, we're in the middle of nowhere, at least a day's flight away from any civilisation, and my wings hurt like hell, I'd love it if this moment could last for longer than what's left of tonight. Damon seems to agree, and soon his song changes into a song we both remember well, the song I was playing when he proposed to me. It was the day before the battle with the paranormals...
“Damon, stop that!” I laugh as he presses the highest key of the piano again. I'm trying to play something, and he keeps distracting me.
“Why? I think it adds a certain depth to the song.” He chuckles, and does it again.
“If by depth you mean extra-annoying-note-played-by-my-cheeky-boyfriend, then sure, why not?” I grin, and he laughs as I try to start the song again. Opening part... shifting down an octave for the verse... back up again- one of the notes makes a funny noise as I hit it. I hit it again, with the same result, it sounds like there's something wrong with string. Damon looks slightly nervous as I open the piano to find what's wrong. “Could you hit that note again for me, please?” I ask him, and he hits the highest note, smirking. “Damon, you know which one I mean.” He chuckles and plays the note I need. I find the string has something on it, something silver. “What..?” I mutter, picking it up. I turn to see Damon smiling sheepishly at me, and I have to look at it twice to see why. It's a silver vine bracelet, with little emerald leaves, a traditional proposal bracelet. It has a sticky note on it too, saying, 'Alexa Kali May Thorn, will you do me the honour?'
“So, um, what do you say?” he asks, unable to maintain eye contact. He's nervousness is a lot more obvious now, and I gasp as I realise what he's asking me.
“Oh my god Damon, really?” I can't believe it! He nods, managing to look into my eyes. I gasp again, smiling, and nod vigorously, beyond words. His eyes light up like Yule tree lights and he hugs me tight before fastening the delicate bracelet around my wrist, where it will stay for the rest of my life. I've never been so happy.
As the memory ends, we both smile at each other, glad for that decision. My wings spasm and a sharp pain shoots through them, but I ignore it. Damon notices and sighs, but knows there is nothing he can do. As a distraction for him, I think back to my human days, and dredge up a song from one of my old favourite bands, Paramore. I hum it for a while, and grin at his surprise at hearing a song he doesn't recognise. He's heard and played every song ever wrote in this realm, so I know I've definitely sparked his interest.
“Sing it to me?” He asks, completely distracted and suitably entranced. I laugh, and start singing it for him. I get to the second chorus and he starts to sing along, but only in the chorus, his perfect memory helping him for that part.
I sing songs from my old favourite bands for him long into the night, until the first streaks of dawn begin to light the sky. I know my mistake now, he's going to ask me to sing him every song I can remember from the Human Realm, just for new material. I swear, I'm going to have to get him an MP3 player or something to entertain him. Just before the sun rises fully, we kick dirt and snow over the ashes of our camp fire, and take to the skies, flying slightly slower than yesterday, so as not to strain my wings, which are aching already.
As is my way, I ignore my discomfort and decide to mess about as usual. I dive when Damon is not looking and grab a couple handfuls of snow, pack them together into a snowball, and lob it at him. It hits him in the back of the head and explodes with a smacking sound; he whips round and spots me laughing, scowls playfully and dives down for his own snowball. I'm faster and manage to get him in the face. He splutters, takes aim as I rocket skyward, and throws it as hard as he can. It hits my wing and I smirk at him, holding up a snowball I picked up before I took off, I take meticulous aim and hit him, once again, square in the face. Laughing, he grabs yet more snow and flies up to me, so I dive, get a snowball and throw it. He manages to dodge another splat in the face, but gets it in the shoulder. He dives, but pulls up short as I scoop up more snow, and to my surprise, he drops all the snowballs he has in his hands, making me pause for a split second, which is all he needs to snap his wings to his sides and dive as fast as he can go. I can't get out of the way in time and he takes me down into a snowdrift, rolling over and over in the snow to soften the impact of our crash-landing; he rolls to his feet, leaving me lying, slightly dizzy, in the snow. He laughs as he looks down at my surprise and slight annoyance. He looks so funny with snow in his hair, and I laugh with him. He beats his wings, showering melting snow all over me, and helps me up. As revenge, I shake my hair out as violently as I can, smiling smugly as the melted snow gets all over him.
“Shouldn't we be getting on with the mission?” He chuckles as I dust myself down. I grumble half-heartedly, I hate Honour Court missions, and I don't want to stop messing around, the old Alexa would carry on, and after all, I hardly ever get to see any snow. But, the Honour Court doesn't care about snow, or my personal dilemma over who I am, or anything like that. They want this mission done, so we may as well get on with it. I sigh, Damon takes my hand, and we leap into the air once more.
He stands in the chamber full of young women, musing over who will be next to go and do a mission. Onyx came back successful, and so avoided a bloody death, but he has plenty to choose from. He hears running footsteps behind him and ragged, shallow breathing. Clearly the runner has been running very quickly for a long time. No matter.
“What is it?!” he roars, rounding on the young girl who skids to a stop, gasping for air.
“Master,” She pants, “I've just seen... two airborne intruders... near the Honour Court member's home... vampires.” She abruptly falls silent at the look of fury and excitement in his face.
“Vampires?!” he grins, “Honour Court vampires?!”
“Um, a male and female, I couldn't see their eyes, but they were both winged-”
“A female? What did she look like? Tell me exactly what she looked like!” The girl trembles, but pulls herself together enough to answer him.
“Sh - she has black hair, big blue dragon wings, carries a bow and arrows, and has fox ears and a fox tail.” Internally he curses, it's not the female he remembers, however the fox ears and tail are a big clue as to who she is. He smiles savagely and calls Onyx forward. She runs to him like a scared dog runs to its master, and he orders her and Wren to find the vampire intruders and bring them to him, alive. They rush off as though scared he'll beat them, which to be honest, they probably are.
He walks out of the chamber at a leisurely pace, to his study with the south-facing window, waiting for his new captives.
Damon reaches Tonla's home first, and I flinch at the sight of it, remembering Tonla's agony, Onyx's fear and desperation, Etengi's confusion. Generally, not a nice place for me right now. However, I ignore my uneasiness and follow Damon as he lands about thirty paces from the front door and turns to face me. I land funny and twist my ankle, but nothing major, I simply stamp my foot a few times to get myself used to the slight pain that comes with it.
“So, what now?” Damon asks me, and I smile at him.
“Now, we find Onyx, take her to Vladimir, find the cure for Viera and get her back, and skip off into the sunset.” I say half-sarcastically. He smiles a little at that.
“If only it were that easy.” He sighs.
“Yeah.” I sigh. Suddenly, I am once again forced into a vision I really don't want to see.
Great, now I've got to track down two vampires and somehow take them to Master alive. Honestly, it'd be easier to wrestle a Minotaur blind and limbless. All we've got is a simple rope and a little knife each. They're not even iron knives, they're silver! We're so dead!
Either way, we head off in the direction of the Honour Court vampire's home. I can see the figures dart across the sky every now and then, and my stomach clenches with fear and dread at the sight of their glittering weapons. The snow is colder than ever on my bare feet, and I have to grit my teeth to keep from moaning. Wren is the same, she is a close friend of mine, or at least, as close a friend as I can afford to have. In this kind of life, you can't afford to get too attached to someone, it could mean your own demise. She glances at me now, and we see the vampires dive and twist and turn in the sky, the female behind the male. I can tell them apart very clearly now, but I still cannot make out their eye colours, so we cannot decipher their identities just yet. Suddenly the female stops, and looks in our direction, Wren and I freeze, and she watches us as we watch her. She knows.
I drag my consciousness away from Onyx's and shiver, watching the area I know she is. They can see me, and I know where they are. Now the only question is, what the hell am I to do?!