“I was starting to think that you’d stood me up,” Amaury called out as he turned to face Dusk. Her long, black hair was twisted up into a braid, and not a single drop of makeup decorated her face. Those big eyes of hers were stormy with anxiety, anxiety that he knew had been because of him.
As she walked by him to take the lead, her shoulder bashed into his arm, and he grinned at the fire inside of her. From over her shoulder, she barked, “Probably would have been a better idea than to walk around campus with someone I barely know.”
His grin widened at her sharp words, and Amaury moved himself faster to catch up with her. “I guess that we should change that, princess.” Before she had the chance to come up with a response, he said, “I want to get a feel for you in combat. Then we we’ll know where to start with your training. Since you have been rumored to have trained with your father’s soldiers and since he was the one that came up with our training regime, I think that I’m about to get my ass kicked.” He held up the gym bag. “I brought you some clothes to change into.”
“Are we going to train in a gym?” she asked, abruptly eager to get this whole thing started. It’d been too long since she’d been able to train with anyone her age. All of the soldiers that she used to hang around with were long gone, either dead or on the hunt of whoever or whatever killed her parents and half of the royal court that had been staying there.
He led her down a stone pathway full of lush green grass and thick emerald bushes that kept growing closer and closer to the path the further they went down it. “Nope. I hate training in gyms. You can never get the feel of the surroundings you’ll really be fighting in whenever it’s you and the enemy on sight. Just keep following me.”
Leaping over a fallen log, he glanced back to find Dusk bounding over it right behind him. Despite the black flats she was wearing, the girl could jump. His gaze caught onto where the river separated them from the training area, and Amaury hopped onto one rock then another. The water bubbled at his sides and the wind blew, brushing his skin.
Careful not to get into the deep areas where the rocks would be covered by water, Amaury jumped across five more rocks then turned again to watch Dusk making feminine jumps from one grey mound to the next. “Thought that would get me?” she acknowledged when their eyes met, and she clearing the remaining rocks to land directly in front of him. “Think again, soldier boy.”
“Don’t get too cocky, princess. Training hasn’t even started yet.” He moved a curtain of vines away and had to raise an eyebrow at Dusk’s abrupt gasp. Then, he noticed it himself.
The Bloodmist Battlefield was an exact replica of the stone training grounds of Trinity’s. The training grounds had been the only thing untouched by the flames during the burning of the castle.
Water surrounded the large slab of circular rock and nature covered the area all around. At each exit was a curtain of thick, green vines. In each of the three columns around the stone slab were the markings of the vampiric legions. There was no roof over the slab of stone only night air and plenty of stars. The moon hung its massive entity high in the sky like a guardian over the two of them. It was the most peaceful place on campus, and the most secluded. Only the headmasters over the dorms, the dean, and a few star pupils knew of its existence and even fewer of them were allowed to use it.
Amaury watched Dusk as she looked up in awe at the night sky then back to her trainer. “How did you know?” Her eyes twinkled as if the gods had implanted emeralds within them, and she stared up at her trainer in awe.
This place, its beauty, it was almost heartbreaking to believe that once upon a time Trinity had owned such a place. The battlegrounds were a place that Dusk lived in, closer to the barracks than the throne room. Those massive stars had once hung themselves high up in the sky above the castle. They were the watchful sentries that Dusk had once prayed to for a better battle, a stronger challenge. The lush greenery of this water encased slab of slate was an exact replica, the same identical kind of twin that she was to Dawn.
A hand’s warmth kissed Dusk’s hip, and she was pulled out of her reverie to acknowledge Amaury. He looked like he belonged here in the midst of the forest. His caramel toned hair was highlighted in streaks from the moon’s glow. His strong silhouette was made even more massive by the stone columns that cast shadows against his skin. A pale hand loosely grasped his training blade, and his fangs, showing just from the parting of his full lips, shimmered beneath the light. Again, she noticed how handsome her trainer was, but again, she noticed that he was a stranger.
He thrust the bag out to Dusk who took it in a snarling grasp. Those red painted fingernails looked ready to be dripping in blood when they shredded the thin, mortal made, cloth of the bag. Grinning, he daunted, “There are some bushes over there. Get changed and get ready to have your ass beat when you get back.”
“Oh, we’ll just see who gets whose ass whooped tonight, Amaury Bane,” she hissed then marched off of the stone steps to go into the enclosed space that she knew had been made to represent a dressing room. A bench carved to replicate a three stones held together by vines greeted her, and she eagerly tossed her oddly heavy bag to it. With an analytical eye, she checked her surroundings, making sure no sign of her could be noted against the breaks in the foliage, and after nodding her approval, she discarded the monkey suit that Regina had so called design for the students.
Once the gym bag was opened up, Dusk growled at the marking of Bloodmist once again. The three interweaving crescent moons shined up at her as she pulled up a pair of highly feminine, highly athletic gym shorts. The tight spandex inside of them provided plenty of room to move while the thin layer gave her thighs fresh air. A blue sports bra covered her up then she topped it off with a thin black shirt trimmed up the sides in blue. Thankful that she’d worn a braid, Dusk flipped her long hair out of the back of the shirt then slipped on the black, grey, and blue sneakers and matching socks.
When she came out from behind the mass of foliage, she found that Amaury had stripped himself of his school uniform only to come back in a thin black, grey, and red shirt with a pair of matching sneakers and jogging pants. His blue eyes scanned her body, and she watched as he curiously went from her bare legs to her face in the most slow of gazes. “Pleased with your work, Amaury Bane?” she bit out, attempting to not give him the same studious glance.
“Quite pleased. Kaine gave me the gym clothes though. It seems as if the two of you have a much deeper relationship than I’d originally got at.” He gave her one of those charming half smiles then added, “We’ll start with some stretches. Follow my lead.”
When she nodded, she copied Amaury as his long arm stretched out. The other followed, and he moved his torso then held. It was a typical stretch. Nothing that required balance. After twenty seconds of that, they stretched out their legs and did a few yoga poses. The stretches felt wonderful, almost as if she hadn’t done them in ages. It’s been far too long since I’ve been properly trained, she reminded herself.
Once that was done and over with, Amaury stated, “I want you to come at me. Try to lift me off my feet and smash me against this pillar.” He tilted his head back to the pillar directly behind him then moved to plant his feet firmly against the ground. “Oh, and don’t think that I won’t reciprocate.”
Grinning, Dusk got down into a feral position. Her fangs lengthened at the thought of a challenge and her claws sharpened to a point so sharp that even cocky Amaury raised a curious brow. She sized her trainer up.
Yes, he could easily take her down from a frontal assault. Amaury was also an older student, so he probably was used to training newbies. Still, Dusk was no newbie. She was the daughter of the great King Daxton, the Steel Soldier as he’d been called as a prince. With her smaller frame she could easily sneak, and she also knew that once she got close enough those majestic wings of Amaury’s would shred through his back. So the best attack would be…
Quickly, Dusk charged forward, and once she saw Amaury’s grasp widen to take her in, she bounded up over him. Her body dashed straight up the column in a blur. From there, she vanished from his sight. As he darted around, searching for her, Dusk reached out from behind him, grabbed him around his waist, and used her vampiric strength to raise his feet.
With his body suspended in the air like a helpless toddler, Dusk flexed her powerful thighs and flung Amaury directly headlong into the column, yet just as she thought she could claim victory, Amaury’s wings shred from the slits in his shirt. Those massive wings shot him around the column and directly at her with the fury of a tornado. In mere seconds, Dusk was lying flat on her back with Amaury’s fangs at her jugular and his hands pinning hers up over her head.
“Do you give up yet, princess?” he asked. His beautiful wings flexed out, shielding her from the moon, and Dusk was absorbed by how easily she’d been taken out.
Hissing like the beast she was, Dusk lashed out with her legs. Amaury’s abdomen was met with a sharp pain as she cracked a rib then again when Dusk snagged one of his wings to send him to the ground. In a flash Amaury enclosed his wings against himself, pulling Dusk with them. Once she was close enough he was rejected by the sharp slap of her claws raking against his skin.
With a grin spread wide across his face, Amaury spat out his own mix of blood and spit. “Now then, Dusk, you forget that the column is over there,” he announced before picking her up by her slender waist. Using the wind, Amaury freed his grasp on Dusk then flapped his wings to send her crashing against the column he had once been pointing to.
“And you forget that you’re fighting the king’s daughter,” she called with her own face spread wide in a sinister grin. Amaury’s head spun as he made a 360 to find Dusk perched up like one of his kind atop the Draco column.
“You truly are a work of art,” he grunted when she had him pinned against the wrong column. It had only taken a single leap, but she had him braced against the Saurian column. Her strong arms held back his, but it was in vain when those massive wings came back to send them both flying sky high.
Her feet dangled uselessly in the air as she writhed against his iron grip on her wrists, and Dusk cried, “You are never going to beat me, Bane! I will get you against that column if it costs me!” Just when he was about to make a snide comment someone from below began to laugh.
Appalled that someone would find her in such a helpless state, Dusk swung her legs up then used the leverage to sink her fangs into Amaury’s hand. With a hiss he accidentally dropped her then gawked as she tumbled to the ground. Ready to dive down to retrieve her, Amaury was only halted by the sight of her being gently lowered by a magical wind.
Osiris Lamia and Kaine Lance stood smiling as Dusk landed lightly to her feet then Amaury appeared directly behind her in an almost protective shadow. “That was quite a show, you two. Even more entertaining than the time that Osiris beat you in a mock search and rescue,” Kaine pointed out to Amaury’s obvious embarrassment.
“Now, now, dearest Amaury, don’t give me that famous scowl of yours. It was a fair game, no powers regulated test,” Osiris explained with those ever descriptive hands of his waving about in the air.
“Humph, and how well would all the girls you were against believe that when you were busy doing up skirts with your so called powers, warlock?” he interjected with crossed arms and that scowl across his features.
Kaine snorted at some apparent memory then cut in, “Alright, boys. Osiris has graduated from Bloodmist, and you are still a student here, Amaury. By the rules of Bloodmist, I cannot permit you to keep arguing with him.” He looked at Osiris who was still glowing from the argument he was clearly enjoying. “Although, I’m sure that the two of you would love to fight all night, that’s not what we came for.”
Dusk finally cut in, impatience growing at the sight of Kaine. “Well, what did you and the patron saint of lingerie come here for?”
“Yeah, we were in the middle of training,” Amaury added with a sharp glower towards Osiris.
Ozzie gave one of his Cheshire grins. “We came to tell the dear princess here that I will also be her trainer since we have reason to believe that the Nyxens have something to do with the assault on her family.” He wrapped Dusk up in his long, rune covered arms. “Now we can spend even more time together, Dusk! I’ll make you so sick of me that I’ll be a leech more so than you.” His black claws shined against her skin, and Dusk gave Kaine a don’t-tell-me-you’re-serious-look.
“Yes, Dusk. Don’t give me that look. There’s a reason for all of these people assigned to you. We have no idea when the people that attacked your parents will come for you and Dawn. Because of rumors coursing through the academy, we will possibly assign a lycan or were to you as well. Right now, your sister has been given discrete guardians. Some are fellow students like Bara and how Amaury will be with you, and others will be in the classroom keeping an eye on her.” When her mouth was about to open, Kaine added, “Your guardians will come in the form of trainers since you are more independent than your sister. If something comes after you, you can defend yourself. She is not so lucky.”
From the cage of Osiris’s arms, Dusk growled, “Why can’t I be with Dawn? Why can’t I guard my sister? I have the qualifications! I have the strength! She doesn’t need guards. She never has. I’ve saved her from death plenty of times and don’t think I won’t go out of my way to do it again. She’s my sister!”
Kaine gave her a sad glance. “Orders are orders, Dusk. I cannot change what I have been given to do.” Something went off at his side, and he hissed out a curse before saying, “I’ll be leaving. Take care of her, you two. She’s all any of us have left.”
That last phrase left a chill inside of Dusk’s mind, and she could still hear in reverberating within her even after Kaine had traced away. He was completely right. She and Dawn were soon to be married off and one of them made Queen of Trinity. It would only be a matter of time… Since Daxton had been prince, he hadn’t been required to marry to lead the country, but since Ilaria only had girls and that Dawn had been the firstborn of the twins, one of them would have to be married.
It was something that Dusk had heard often in the country since the death of her parents. Dawn was the one that everyone wanted to lead, Dusk included. She was meant to be the ruler, by birthright and by intellect.
Dusk had never had time for council meetings or throne room soirees. If anything, she had always hid from the ones she hadn’t been required to go to. The soldiers would sneak her out of the ones she had needed to go to after her presence had been made known. Rarely anyone in the country had ever spoken about Dusk, and she liked it that way, less bullshit to cover up if she screwed up.
It was always Dawn this and Dawn that. The entire country fawned over her sister while leaving Dusk in the shadows, but it was because of her reticence and lack of popularity that always kept Dawn safe. While her sister would be parading about on the center stage of the kingdom, Dusk would be stalking in the shadows like a Guardian. Far too many times had Dusk delayed her sister’s and perhaps her parent’s demise by snitching on suspicious travelers and sneaky assassins. Now though, the country had come to realize that there really was another daughter of Trinity alive. Now, people were also stalking her in the night.
Biting her lip, Dusk looked at the ground. Dawn was in danger… a kind of danger that even she wouldn’t be able to prevent, and she wasn’t even allowed to be in the same classes as her. She knew why. She wasn’t stupid.
It was all to make it that much more difficult for the assassins to find them. If they took out Dawn, they would still have Dusk. If they took out Dusk, they would still have Dawn. The royal blood had been spread so thin during the centuries that only the twins were able to rightly gain access to the throne, and the vampires were so obsessed with legitimacy that they wouldn’t dare to allow Kaine to take the throne despite his Saurian leadership unless both twins were dead.
Amaury brought her back to her senses with the snapping of his wings as they receded back into his body, and she turned around to find that Osiris had lounged himself out on one of the stone benches.
They were so relaxed… The kingdom was at stake yet Osiris was lounging and Amaury was pulling his wings back into himself. With a glower she demanded, “Teach me how to kill a warlock!”
Raising his jet black eyebrows, Osiris exclaimed, “I know I can be a bit overbearing at times, but come on now, Dusk. There’s no need to kill me yet!” His long legs stretched out, and he appeared in front of Dusk. The clarity in her eyes astounded him. Putting all joking aside, he acknowledged, “What Kaine said hit you.”
“Yes. It’s either me or Dawn. She may not be strong enough to protect herself, and since I am, I’m going to make myself her guardian on my own time. I’m going to need to know how to kill the toughest of enemies and the ones that are the most likely to attack my sister.”