‘Dagon, did you feel that?’ a hooded figure in a ‘Yale’ pullover turned towards a broad shouldered man.
‘The unmistakable flare of a goddess.’ Dagon bowed his head in respectfully, ‘She has finally appeared after a hundred years of earthly waiting.’
‘What more so fresh and… strong. She will make a lovely tower goddess now, won’t she?’
‘Only the very best.’ Dagon nodded. A strand of ivory hair fell against his peculiar lavender orbs and he flipped it away irritably, raking his hands through his rather excessively gelled hair.
‘Let’s pay her a visit tomorrow.’ the man paused and tapped his chin wistfully ‘Scratch that. I’m too excited. Let’s intercept her on her way to school.’
‘She is with mate. It is most unwise.’ the other man spoke with a heavy British accent, ‘To pick a fight with a mated demon would be courting death.’
‘Mated?’ whipping around, mismatched eyes flashed behind ask blonde curls. ‘Then we’ll just take him out.’
Dagon sniffed. ‘You don’t seriously expect a girl like her to be mated to just any demon, do you?’ Dagon’s partner harrumphed. ‘If you strike now, you’ll be going against a Prince. Just thought you’d like to know, Marco.’
‘That brown haired boy is a Prince? I don’t remember the demon King and Queen being being brunettes.’ Marco frowned. ‘Unless you’re talking about that energy signature from a few months back…’
Dagon nodded. ‘Well shiet.’ Marco sighed heavily ‘We aren’t getting past a mate like that, Dagon. And why do you still look so calm?’
‘Because knowledge is power.’
‘Cut the bullcrap’ Dagon chuckled.
‘She doesn’t like him very much.’ Dagon turned his back on Marco and stretched. ‘Naw, I’m pretty sure she hates him.’
‘And you know this much because…?’ Marco folded his arms. ‘We only just found her!’
‘No, you just found her.’
‘You never share.’ Marco huffed.
‘You just never asked.’ Dagon shrugged. ‘Besides, today was just confirmation. I had my eyes on her for a while. She was just too suspicious. Her archery was too precise. She never missed -even during practice- and she disappears entirely after school activities. Not to mention, she wears rosebud.’
‘Do you stalk every girl like this?’ Marco nudged. ‘I think you should be the one worrying about going up against the Prince.’
‘Shut it.’ Dagon shoved. ‘I just feel like she’s important somehow. Like she can help me.’
Marco eyed him curiously. ‘What problems would you have?’
‘She could start with how my partner hasn’t found his familiar yet.’
‘Touche.’ Dagon rolled his eyes and stormed towards their backpacks. ‘Where’re you going?’
‘Not just me, you too.’ Dagon threw Marco a bag. ‘We better hurry. We have to meet her half way.’
‘That’s right, Marco. We’re going back to high school. A goddess shouldn’t be kept waiting.’
‘What was that about?’ Cobalt finally caught up to me at my locker.
‘What was what about?’ I plugged one of my ear pieces in while I shoved around for my Biology textbook. I was not in the mood for any of this right now. Cobalt twisted me by the arm, pushing me against the lockers. Let’s just say I could have come up with a more romantic way of doing so.
‘The vines, your glassy eyes. Threatening a Prince?’ Cobalt stared intently at me, willing me to answer while I burned holes into his forehead. ‘Well?! What has your dreams been teaching you? You have to stop blindly following it!’
I swear a vein popped.
‘Gee sorry, Dad.’ I ground out. ‘I think my dreams are the only thing that actually understands me so I’ll be following it’s guidance thank you very much.’
‘You’re dreams have changed you. You weren’t always like this. The Asper I know gives everything a shot. ‘ staring up into his jet black orbs, I saw pain and concern. But I also saw a man who was in the midst of jumping fence.
‘And what about you? Whose side are you on?!’ I hissed. ‘One moment you’re swearing to protect me whatever happens and the next, you’re offering me up on a silver platter.’
‘This is different, Asper, this is fate. Can’t you see?’ Cobalt grabbed me by my shoulders and shook. ‘He’s finally coming for you and he isn’t trying to kill you!’
‘No. No, Cobalt. This is a test for me. I’m not about to fall for him again. Once he has me, he’ll throw me away for fae-bitch Bethany. Only this time I won’t be able to slip away!’ I wailed, not caring that we were right smack in the middle of the hall. ‘Please, Cobalt.’
‘Asp. Not every girl that gets close to Xavier is like Eliza. He’s only got eyes on you now.’
‘He’s just desperate, Cobalt.’ I probably spat on his shoe while I said it.
‘You really have to stop that.’ I shot him a questioning glance. ‘It reflect more on you than him, you know.’ By Allura. He wasn’t about to pull morals into this as well, is he?
‘Alright.’ I ducked under his arm, commanding a gush of wind to swerve me through my steep collision with a near by water fountain. ‘I’m a bitch. But I’m fine with that, you know?’ I stumbled a little but caught myself just in time.
‘The ‘Prince’ who wrecked my life waltzes in and says, I’ll take the Asper extra value meal with a busty whore on the side. Fries extra crispy.’ I made air-quotes with my fingers. ‘Oh horrible Asper, why are you tossing him on the ground and stepping on him? Oh right, I forgot I had to spit on him as well!’I was starting to ramble.
‘Asp. Come back.’
‘Shove off!’ I hissed at him when he reached out to pull me back, throwing my hands up and bumping into Amber who squealed.
‘Woah there. Sibling fight?’ Her eyes searched mine and I saw a look of concern on her pale face. She’d fallen very sick recently. The doctors said it was a combination of the common cold and stomach flu. Talk about winning combinations. I frowned and huffed, turning my back on the duo, I stalked off.
‘Ah! Asp, I bought your favourite cinnamon sugar doughnuts from Beverly Bakery!’ she called as she trotted after me, sniffing as she came. I felt guilty and slowed down for her to catch up. I could use the sugar right now.
‘Don’t mind her, Amber. She’s just being an unreasonable brat.’ Cobalt taunted. I paused mid stride, resisting the urge to turn and face my so-called cousin. He was just trying to get to me. So I’ll lose my temper and throw a fit just like what the general school population would now think I’d do.
‘You could turn around. Shred this school apart with just a scream. Then you can take him out…’
‘I could…’ I thought back to myself. ‘Wait. What the hell? What was that? Am I going crazy?’ I outwardly frowned, earning myself a few strange looks. A little crowd had gathered around us and Amber started glancing around nervously.
‘Asper…’ Amber touched my arm and yelped when she got shocked by the static radiating off my skin.
‘What are you waiting for?! Sike him!’
‘Shut up!’ I shouted at that voice in my head. I glanced around. People were staring. How long have I been in this spot? Clenching my fist and squaring my shoulders, I took a deep breath. I wasn’t about to tell Cobalt about this new skill (or curse) I had. I might as well skip class and figure things out.
Finally, after what felt like an eternity, I took my next step and walked away.
So here I am. Hiding under the benches of the school stadium. I still haven’t figured out what was wrong with myself. The voice had been telling me horrible things. Things about the Gods going to war with Allura knows whom. Things that didn’t make sense, like how I was made to fight them.
The voice even told me Xavier was going to bring me back and revert back to his old self again; that he’d brought trouble with him. Now that I believed. That woman -Bethany or whatever he’d called her- gave my tummy a funny feeling.
‘Hey.’ I felt a breath at my neck and jumped, whamming my head against a wall.
‘What the hell!’ I cursed, my eyes focusing on the figure before me as I blinked.
‘Tsk, tsk. Such words doesn’t suit a beauty such as yourself.’ The world stopped spinning and I squinted at him, but his deep voice seemed to shake my world even more. His hair was ash blonde; tossed tastefully for a few curls to cover his left eye. His eyes, were an intriguing mismatched emerald and sapphire. He looked surreal. I must have stared too long because a smirk started to form on his lips.
‘Like what you see?’ He smiled lazily, which was surprising. I was expecting him to go full jackass on me. Either that or Xavier had been hanging around me for too long.
‘Maybe.’ I angled my chin playfully, trying to imitate a sultry stripper I’d seen on MTV. He laughed, all deep and raspy. I watched him as he shook his head. He had dimples.
‘Well I like what I see.’ His eyes darkened a shade and I gulped. This wasn’t good. I couldn’t use my powers on human, I’d blow my cover. ‘How about you tell me your number?’
‘Ah my…’ I backed away a little and dished out my Russian accent. ‘If I told you, I’d have to kill you, boy.’ He was getting too close. I felt a pull and a loud thump on my mind. Immortal. Wide-eyed, I pushed him with all my might, sending him across the space and right into a basket of soccer balls.
‘Who are you?’ I scrambled to get up. This guy was tricky. I didn’t sense him at all. Was it rosebud as well? I wasn’t taking chances. ‘Answer me.’ Magic glowed from my finger tips while the clouds rolled restlessly above but I didn’t care.
‘You sure have grown, sister.’ He stumbled out of the basket, wiping bits of blood from the corners of his mouth. His shirt was ripped and his shoulders bore black charred marks where I’d shoved him. ‘Fire magic at such an early age. No wonder the Gods brought you back.’
‘Fire?’ I gaped at him. The last time I dreamt of fire, I used it to burn down houses, create infernos and incinerate armies of humans. It was more a nightmare than a lesson and I swore I’d never use fire magic. Not to mention, this guy was a complete nut job. ‘I don’t do fire. And who are you calling a sister?’
‘Ouch, sis. That hurt. Both ways.’ He pointed to his heart and now healing skin. ‘Of course you can use fire. What else burns? Your comebacks?’
I grimaced. He didn’t have to go for the ego.
‘Anyway, I’m glad I finally found you.’ He advanced towards me like he was coming in for a hug. Was he serious? ‘It’s not every century you find someone who’s family, you know.’
Family? I blinked. ‘I’m not your family, I have no family!’ I rebutted.
I must have let my guard down because I didn’t notice how close he’d managed to get, enveloping me in a massive bear hug.
‘I can prove it. Can you feel that?’ He hugged me tighter each time I struggled. ‘Doesn’t it feel familiar?’ I paused mid-strangle. I felt tingles on every part of my body. It wasn’t the kind I got around Xavier, no. His hugs felt like… home. Could it be?
‘You believe me!’ He let me go and set me down. ‘See? I didn’t mean to flirt with you know? That was gross for me as well.’
‘You were the kid mom was protecting when they kicked me out?’ I whispered, the memories flooding back. ‘How are they up there? How did you die?’
‘Wait, what?’ He frowned and stared at me for a moment. ‘Oh Oden, you got it all wrong.’ He sucked in a breath so fast it sounded like a whistle and sighed heavily.
‘Look. You’re my sister because we’re the same. I’m a warlock. Witch, warlock.’ He put two fingers together and wiggled them.
‘What?’ I snapped out of my pending emotional breakdown. ‘How is that possible? All the warlocks and witches are dead.’
‘I managed to survived thanks to Lady Furie. She saved me with a feather from her lynx. It transported me here to Earth to live like a normal boy.’ He seemed to hum everything, like he was this bouncing ball of happiness. Did he tell me something about a lynx’s feathers? ‘I learnt about you about a hundred years ago. From then, I’ve been waiting for you to um, come down.’
‘That’s a nice way to put it.’ I mused.
‘So you’ve been here for a hundred years, I’ve been here for three and you just found me?’ I crossed my arms. ‘Sorry, but that’s just really fishy to me.’
‘As expected of my sister, as sharp as ever.’ he clicked his tongue while I half expected him to drop the happy-go-lucky act and jump me. ‘You’re magic matured this morning.’
‘What?’ I blinked.
‘You like that word a lot. ‘What’ ‘ he pondered. ‘What, what, what, what, what. Now that word has no meaning.’ I rolled my eyes at him.
‘What do you mean by matured?’ I crossed my arms, mimicking his stance. ‘Did it turn into a teenager of something? And how do I know you really are a warlock, not some shady wannabe.’
‘Very funny, sis.’ he nodded ‘I’d like to show you my familiar but Oden hasn’t been as generous to me as he’s been to you.’ He glared at me, as if he were jealous. Or was that bitterness in his eyes.
‘Alright, then show me some earth magic.’ I tapped my foot on the ground. ‘Or whatever is easiest for you.’
Mr Mismatched chuckled and shook his head.
‘You’re clueless, aren’t you? Not all witches and warlocks are the same. We control different things. So if you control nature, no other witch or warlock will be able to control nature till you pass on and return your gifts to the Gods.’ I hated how he was purposefully talking slowly as if I were stupid.
‘Then what do you control?’ I cut in as soon as he finished his sentence. He smiled and shook his head again. I inwardly hoped it’ll roll off his neck one day.
‘It really isn’t much, but it comes in handy.’ Crouching down, he touched the ground like how I’d normally summon my vines. His hands started to glow a pale blue and something started to grow from the ground. He let what look like a hilt twist around his hand, before pumping more energy into the mysterious object and pulling it out swiftly. There in his hands, was a beatiful and elegant sword. It glistened in the little light that passed through the gaps from the benches above.
‘Neat, huh.’ I nodded. ‘Well it wasn’t as fun when I was learning the skill and ended up stabbing myself through the palm the first five times in a row.’ I scrunched my face up and tried to get that image out of my head.
‘Is it only swords that you do?’ I checked my hair in it’s reflection.
‘Oh I do many things.’ He gave up holding the sword and threw it to me. ‘As long as it’s any form of metal element from the ground, I can control it. Change it’s formation, so to speak. This means I am both defense and offence. I build walls, I make swords, hammers, even tanks if the ground is ‘fertile’ enough.’ He made inverted commas with his fingers.
A cough was heard from a few meters away. I jumped up and readied myself for a fight, body in stance; fists glowing with energy.
‘Woah, woah. Calm down, wild cat.’ He held his hands up. ‘Just someone I thought you should meet.’
A boy emerged from the shadows. His hair was snow white and he stared at me with piercing blue eyes.
‘This is Dagon. Asper, Dagon.’ For some reason, I felt it was necessary to reach out and shake his hand, so I did. Dagon raised an eyebrow but shook it anyway. Immediately, I felt a jolt of energy ripple through my veins. I jumped back.
I could feel his presence now, it wasn’t like anything I’d felt before. Confused, I frowned and tilted my head.
‘I’m a Dranix.’ Dagon seemed to read my mind, though his answer seemed to boggle me even more. ‘You do know what I am, right?’
‘Maybe.’ I dragged it out. ‘Maybe not.’
Before Dagon had a chance to speak, Mismatched grabbed him by the neck and twisted. A deafening crack echoed and I screamed. Dagon crumpled onto the ground with a thud and we stared at his body for a good five minutes. It would have been comical, if that wasn’t the corpse of my newly made acquaintance lying a few meters in front of me. His fair fell limp and his breathing had creased.
‘You killed him!’ My hands flew over mouth as I struggling not to wrench. ‘I just met him and you bleeding killed him!’
‘Just wait.’ said the murderer. He even had a smile on his face. We waited and sure enough, slowly I heard the bones crack back into place and the boy rose from the ground once again, his eyes flared as he touched his neck. With a final twist, he let out a groan and stretched, dusting himself off at the same time. ‘You were faster today, Dagon. You may not even need a brace this time.’
‘Don’t forget that I’m the one who doesn’t need sleep in our apartment.’ Dagon glared.
‘So… you’re a zombie or something?’ I blabbed.
Both men turned to stare at me. Dagon looked insulted while Mismatched gave me the ‘why are you so stupid’ face.
‘Oh man, you don’t know? You’re at least 300 years old, sis! Did you hit your head too hard on your way here, or something?’
‘Okay, one, I didn’t exactly get a chance to socialize and explore while I was up in Iroria so don’t blame me and two, don’t you know revealing a woman’s age is a huge no-no? Besides, a wall did fall on me, so I think I deserve a little leeway right?’ I huffed and placed my hands on my hips.
‘Feels like a harsh way to get out of that hell hole.’ Dagon mused as he continued to massage his neck.
‘Thank you. Finally someone understands me!’ I threw my hands up and huffed. ‘And if you aren’t a zombie, then what are you?’
‘I’m a Dranix, which is a mix between a dragon and a phoenix. Mixed breeds are rather rare in Iroria, mainly because everyone believed that mix-breeding would bring about weaker spawn. The other reason was because people simply couldn’t have mixed children, especially phoenixes whom everyone thought could only mate with their kind, you know, being on fire and everything.’ Dagon paused and waited for me to digest all the information. When I nodded, he continued.
‘But my father was a stone dragon, which basically gave him the right to stick his dick into just about anything. When my mom had me, she told me I was born with molten rock and lava, which probably explains my gift of fire and magma. As a cross, I had the wisdom and wit of a dragon and most importantly, my mother’s re-birthing ability as a phoenix.’
‘Doesn’t that make you more immortal than all of us?’ I pointed out and he nodded.
‘I couldn’t be killed, or at least no one knew how to take me down. Naturally, Kings and generals from different sectors came to recruit me into their councils and armies but I just didn’t want to be a soldier. So I declined all of them. Rumors soon spread that I was raising and army of my own in Iroria, and before I knew it, there was a bounty above my head. Then I met Marco over here and he got me into more trouble.’
I couldn’t help but grin.
‘So how was it over at your side? You mentioned a hellhole?’ Marco butted in as he knuckled Dagon’s skull.
‘Oh, hellhole would have been an understatement.’ I rolled my eyes while he nodded sympathetically.
‘What do you mean by understatement, though?’ he walked over, sat down and pat the spot beside him. ‘You could go take a break, Dagon, your work here is done.’
Dagon raised an eyebrow.
‘Real funny. But I’d leave obedience school to your familiar.’
‘Whatever.’ Marco rolled his eyes and threw dirt at Dagon’s white dress shirt. Dagon took a step back and frowned irritably.
Feeling more at ease, I took a seat beside Marco while Dagon flopped down easily beside me. His hair looked so light and bouncy, I felt a tinge of jealousy. Note to self, ask him what shampoo conditioner he uses.
‘It’s a funny tale, but I’ll break it down for ya.’ I stretched my legs out, in the event of when I had to make a break for it. I didn’t want to risk the cramps, you know. ‘I met my mate. He was a jerk, threw me into the dungeon because I didn’t love him where I was then killed by a collapsing wall while I was trying to save a close friend.’
Marco looked slightly taken aback. ‘Harsh.’
‘Thanks. Best response so far.’ I stretched to my toes, picked a dandelion and passed it to him. ‘Here’s a prize.’ Dagon choked back a laugh unsuccessfully, earning an elbow to the ribs. I smiled. These people actually got my sense of humor.
‘Smart ass.’ He laughed as he tugged the plant from my fingers. ‘Just realized I haven’t properly introduced myself. I’m Marco.’ He sat up straight and extended his hand so formally, I almost laughed.
‘Alright, I’m Asper.’ I reached out to shake his hand. ‘But you can call me Asp.’
‘I didn’t ask.’ Marco flipped his hair, got up and dusted himself off, leaving me staring up at him, mouth hanging open at his sudden comeback.
‘Are all warlocks smart alecks or is it just you?’ I glared up at him.
‘Well, he tries very hard.’ Dagon nodded and this time Marco kicked him square in the head. I swear I heard a crack and he laid on the ground groaning as he willed his neck to snap back into place. Marco on the other hand, dusted his pants and looked proud of himself. I winced. If this was going to happen a lot, it would be something I’d have to get used to.
‘Now, now, sis.’ he held his hand out to pull me up and I took it hesitantly. The boy had violent tendencies. ‘Let’s not be sexist here. Honestly, I think it runs in the family.’
‘In that case, I am honored.’ I stumbled a little and dusted myself off.
‘My point exactly.’ Marco tapped me lightly on the nose and turned to leave. What? They’re leaving?
‘Wait! What if I want to know more about myself? How do I find you?’ I blurted out. Marco stopped in his tracks, looked up and seemed to ponder.
‘Are you asking for my number?’ He grinned and I dry-heaved. ‘I’ll give you something better. Come’er.’
Warily, I took a couple steps forward. ‘Can’t you just tell me your number from here?’ Marco sighed for the gazillion time that day and closed the distance between us in large strides. He leaned down and I turned my face, making his lips touch my temple instead. I felt a jolt of energy run through my body and all of a sudden, I was overwhelmed by his presence. The amount of magic seemed to hit me in the head like a flying brick.
‘That was my energy signature.’
‘Your magic signature is a flying brick to the face?’ I held my poor head, massaging my temples and waiting for the ground to stop shaking.
‘It’s worst when he does it on the lips.’ Dagon was lying on his side, watching us. ‘Take it from someone with experience.’
Marco rolled his eyes. ‘Sometimes you’re just asking for it aren’t you?’ swiveling on his heel, he lifted his leg to feign a kick to the gut. Embarrassingly, I squeaked and covered my face.
‘Taking advantage of someone when they are weak & hurting doesn’t make you stronger, it means you’re a bully!’ Dagon shouted the quote as if it were his last words. Though we all knew it would never apply to him. ‘Never take advantage of a young dragon, we hold grudges!’ He made a feeble attempt to roll away. The entire scene was comic and I burst out laughing.
‘Quit abusing the poor guy already!’ I choked out between laughs.
‘If it’s not enough that he’s a malfunctioning encyclopedia thanks to his Dragon gene, he’s got the arrogance of a Phoenix!’ Marco bent down to poke Dagon’s neck, causing him to scream out something in Italian. Or at least I thought it was. ‘You got to beat it out of him.’
Dagon stopped moving and whimpered. It must have really hurt. Marco looked over at him as if waiting for him to try something but softened when he realized his partner was indeed in pain. Sighing, he crouched down and touched the ground. Little tendrils of silver sprouted from the earth and Dagon reached for the wisps. Upon contact, it seemed to start getting absorbed into his body and he sighed.
‘Dragon thrive on silver.’ Marco explained when he caught the look of awe on my face. So that was why Xavier’s dragon was always clad in silver.
‘As I was saying before I was rudely interrupted, this signature is how we witches and warlocks communicated in the past so that people couldn’t intercept our messages.’ I could only stare at him, still dizzy from the sudden rush of energy. ‘Creatures like your demon prince and right hand man wouldn’t be able to sense our conversation. Won’t even know about our messages. ‘
He looked at me and I eyed him to continue.
‘See it as exchanging phone numbers, except only us witches and warlocks have a special frequency. You know?’
‘But how do I give you mine?’ I quizzed.
‘Oh, I already have it. That’s how I found you. You see, the moment your magic matured, you’d sent out this huge magic signature to all witches and warlocks around the world. It’s like hitting the ‘import contacts’ button from Facebook to Instagram, expect you don’t get to know who you’re adding. It’s dangerous because people would come looking for you, both good and bad.’
‘So you’re saying there may be people coming after me right now?!’ My tone rose a little higher.
‘Naw, right now there aren’t anymore of us on Earth. Just the two of us. Convenient, isn’t it?’ I nodded, trying to calm my beating heart.
‘Do we learn just basic spells like healing? What are the few basic spells all witches and warlocks know? How many of us are there?’ I was talking too fast. Don’t blame me, my whole life I was raised to believe there was no one like me. This discovery was both overwhelming but extremely exciting. So exciting I had to stop my teeth from chattering.
‘Woah woah. Slow and steady.’ Marco held both his hands out. ‘I’m not the genius here. The genius is over there.’ He pointed over to Dagon, who seemed to be sound asleep.
‘He isn’t known as Iroria’s Arch General for nothing, you know?’ I cocked an eyebrow. I was seriously doubting that statement. ‘He’s weak now because he isn’t in the sun nor is he a full blown dragon. When he matures, he’ll have the best of both worlds. To be blessed during the day and to thrive under moonlight. Perks of being a Dranix, I guess.’
‘How would you be sure?’ I asked rather bluntly. ‘And what do you mean by general?’ Marco shifted uncomfortably.
‘You know about the vampire raid on the Demon’s castle?’ I nodded. ‘He was the one who planned it.’
My eyes widened. If I looked at it one way, he was the one who saved me.
‘He was the one that sniffed you out. After memorizing book after book on witches and warlocks while he had access to the imperial library, he noticed a pattern. A witch or warlock was born every Earthly solar eclipse, the eclipse that had happened roughly nineteen years ago back then.
When you’d fully matured into immortality, you’d sent out a powerful wave of energy, alerting the vampires. Those bloodsuckers have a thing for sound waves.’
Marco paused to watch my reaction. I nodded and egged him on to continue. This was brand new information.
‘The vampires understood that they could never overpower the vemon heir but they couldn’t simply allow him to hold a witch within his castle at his beck and call. What more one that had just matured. So they sought Dagon out. Dagon had been interested in witches and warlocks since forever so an opportunity like that was too tempting to let slip.
He planned an all out attack, even though I had rather violently objected. From the way I saw things then, you’d have probably get yourself killed in the massacre since none of the vampires knew how you looked like and your energy signature was still woozy. But he led them, knowing well that you had a protector.’
‘Cobalt.’ I whispered. Marco nodded.
‘He sent the vampires to a particular demon. The lightning princess Eliza. The Prince, being infatuated by her, sought to protect her with his life.’ I flinched. ‘I’m sorry to remind you.’
‘Don’t be.’ I muttered.
‘And this is where it gets interesting. Dagon didn’t know how the inside of the demon castle looked like. Hell, he didn’t even have a map.’
‘Then how…?’ I frowned.
‘Your friend, Cobalt knew.’ Marco grinned. My eyes widened and my lips formed an ‘O’.
‘That’s right. He knew Cobalt had been itching to steal you from the castle. He’d probably been planning it for a while then.’ Marco pushed his shoulders out, proud of his partner. ‘Dagon’d cleared the path for him to get your keys. The mission was to get you out, not to possess you. But he didn’t count on your magic maturing so quickly to perform such a risky spell. He didn’t think you’d want yourself dead either. So he never calculated.’
I huffed, a little hurt that someone had tried to calculate my death.
‘And how did you get here?’ I asked abruptly, changing the subject. Marco paled. If I could take my words back at that moment, I would have.
‘I was killed during the raid. By the Prince himself. I am part vampire.’ He whispered and I gasped. ‘But it doesn’t matter, I’m alive and kicking now.’
‘But… how?’ I asked carefully. Better not step on his tail.
‘Dagon. I owe everything to him.’ Marco’s eyes softened. ‘When he found me, he sensed my ancient blood and panicked over trying to save me. It was the only time I’ve ever seen him panic.’ He slumped again and I gave him a sympathetic pat on the back.
‘I was dying as the air was dry and it was broad daylight. There wasn’t a river for miles. If you were wondering, I’m part siren as well. Minus the tail, thank Oden.’ Marco let out an exaggerated sigh of relief and wiped imaginary sweat from his forehead. ‘That makes me a Vampen. Another rare mix. A vampire that can walk in the sun and breathe underwater.’
This time I put my hands up, trying to digest all these information.
‘So you died? But how does Dagon get here if he can’t die?’ Marco tsked me and continued.
‘I’m getting there.’ Marco bit his lip and looked around. ‘He let me drink from him. I started healing rapidly. In fact, till now he’s convinced I have some level of Dranix blood in me. I had re-birth thanks to him, but he reckons I’ll only manage to do so if I have enough Dranix blood in my system.’
‘That doesn’t explain much…’ I thought to myself.
‘Guard your thoughts. I can hear just about anything.‘ I heard Marco’s voice in my head and I snapped my head up to glare. But he had a point. I was so excited, I’d dropped my walls entirely.
‘Then we met Lady Furie.’ Marco stretched. ‘She told us the Gods weren’t happy about Dagon bringing me back and were coming down to literally smite us. So she presented us with two feathers from her lynx and basically told us to scam.’
I giggled. Lady Furie sounded like a cool person.
‘She did leave us with a word though.’ Marco’s tone was serious now. ‘She specifically said “Find the tower guardian. Iroria is falling.” ‘ I frowned.
‘Are you implying something?’
‘You know exactly what I’m talking about.’ Marco watched me carefully. I stared my hardest at him for a few moments, then crumbled and wailed. I have had enough of people trying to shove destiny up my butt.
‘But I’m not ready, okay?!’ I was tearing a little now. ‘I can’t stop a world from ending. I’m just one girl, witch or not!’
‘You have me. You have Dagon. You can ask us anything. You’re powerful, Asper. You’ll realize in time. And when you do, no one would be able to lock you up. Prince of not.’
‘Really?’ I sniffed and looked up at Marco with puppy dog eyes.
‘Yeah, we’ll protect you alright?’ Marco puffed up again. I smiled and lurched to hug him.
‘Last question, or maybe not.’ I looked up at him ‘How did Dagon get into the imperial library?’
‘Dagon? Oh I almost forgot.’ I watched as he turned and walked towards Dagon’s sleeping figure. ‘Dagon is the Crown Prince of the stone dragons.’
How could anyone forget to mention that?
‘If anything, just beep me.’ He tapped his head twice, grabbed Dagon and vanished with a too-coincidental gush of wind. Leaving me to wonder what the hell to do from here.
Snapping out of my daze, I pulled my phone out and dialed for Amber.
‘Hay, hay Ambs!’ I chimed over the phone.
‘Well, someone is cheery again. What’s up. Cobalt and emo boy here are going ballistic. Where are you?
‘I needed to get away. Oh. Angelo is there?’ I was well aware that my tone had gone sub zero.
‘Is that his name? I could have sworn he introduced himself as Xavier. “Asper’s boyfriend”‘ Amber deepened her voice at the last moment to mimic Xavier, making me chuckle.
‘Oh, he’s the farthest thing from boyfriend right now.’ I replied nonchalantly. ‘And I’m sorry I’ve been neglecting you the past week.’
‘No worries. The doughnuts are in your mini fridge. Hurry home.’
Amber, who is it you’re talking to? It’s Asper, isn’t it? Gods, give me the sodding phone! I heard Cobalt wrestle the phone from Amber, Amber screaming at him to shove off and Xavier patiently repeating himself at the background as to what was going on.
I looked at my phone and hung up. Xavier may have done nothing but stroll into my life and attempt to charm me, and he’s already turned my life upside down.
Sighing, I walked out from under the shelter of the benches, enjoying the warmth of the sun on my skin. Suddenly, it felt like a really good day to try something funny.
Cobalt was waiting for me at the door, arms crossed and feet tapping. I would have been worried, but right then, it looked funny against the happy tune I was humming in my head.
‘Where have you been? I was looking all over school for you!’ Cobalt shook me but I flashed him a goofy smile. ‘Why are you in such a good mood? And why do you smell like… that. What have you been doing?’
I momentarily froze.
‘Crap.’ I thought. ‘I’ll smell like them.’
‘Walls, young one.’ Marco’s voice rang through my head. Testing one, two. Is this thing on?’
Of course it’s on. Dagon’s voice snapped in my head.
‘Guys! Thank goodness. So help me, he’s probably going to sniff you guys out.’ I projected it to them, hoping both of them would get the message. I had no idea how two of them could be communicating with each other in my head.
‘Dagon’s already got it covered. Changed our scents. What was mine again?
‘Lotus flower, lillypads, freshly clipped grass and chicken breast left out in the sun.’
There was a slight pause in the conversation while I tried to hold back my laughter.
‘Could you explain to me again why I smell like our backyard? And why chicken breast!’
Don’t be picky, Marco. You don’t interrupt me in the middle of a BBQ and expect to get away with it!’
‘Hey!’ I focused on Cobalt again, momentarily tuning out of the amusing conversation in my head. ‘I asked you why you smell funny.’
‘Oh I don’t know…’ I pushed past him lazily. ‘Must have been Calvin.’
I felt the bickering in my head quieten down as they listened in.
‘Calvin?’ Cobalt grated.
‘You know, your friend? Calvin Klein?’ I watched his face, waiting for reaction but he stayed passive, or should I say, pissed off. Not caring, I exploded with laughter.
‘I cannot believe he’s letting you get away with that.’ Marco gushed ‘Would you let me get away with that?
‘Get away with that? I’d be rolling on the floor with you!’
‘Careful. You might catch my scent.’
‘Naw you ate the chicken breast a while ago.’ Dagon’s remark sparked another wave of laughter. These guys were crazy.
‘What is all the ruckus about?’ Xavier appeared from a rather grim looking living room which I suppose he had moved into. ‘Oh hey, love, you’re home.’ He leaned down to kiss me and I instinctively turned my head, his lips landing exactly where Marcos’ initially was. He drew back in an instant and made a face like he’d tasted something bad.
‘What have you been doing in school?’ his voice was low and dangerous but I was so high on adrenaline, I couldn’t be bothered.
‘Oh, you can taste DNA now?’ I saw his eye twitch and I grinned even wider. ‘Maybe you should ask my friend Ralph Lauren, or his girlfriend Kate Spade.’
Xavier’s fists clenched as he tried to control his temper.
‘I smell an immortal on you.’ Xavier was fuming. ‘Who is it?’
I heard Marco gulp at Xavier’s ferocity and felt Dagon tense up.
‘Nothing you’d have to worry about.’ I feigned innocence, praying he wouldn’t find out. It was too early to get busted. I had to throw him off somehow. Without a second thought, I slid up to his side and threaded my arm through his and pressed my lips against his neck. I felt his breath hitch and grinned.
‘I mean. He wasn’t as tall as you. Or as handsome or strong. And you know I’ll always love your hair best.’ I purred into his ear. His stance softened and his jaw grew slack. By Allura, it was actually working.
‘But I guess I’m not helping myself if I told you I really liked how he smelt, huh?’ I whispered into his ear.
‘And she just has to blow it.’ I heard Dagon sigh in my head. ‘You’re right, Marco. Stupidity does run in the family.’
Almost immediately, Xavier’s nostrils flared and I felt electricity in the air. I’d done it this time and it didn’t take someone like Dagon to tell me . Turning, I made a mad dash for the stairs.
‘Asper Emma Bellavista, you get back here RIGHT THIS INSTANT.’ I heard a tumble ‘Get off me Cobalt, I am not about to let some human charm the knickers off my mate!’ I wish I could die right now so that the phrase ‘rolling in my grave’ would have been deemed literal and humorously appropriate.
‘Xavier I will NOT allow you to get jealous over a damn perfume bottle!’ Cobalt was screaming now.
‘An extravagant floral oriental fragrance blended from warm golden amber, creamy sandalwood, orris root butter and its signature. The Bulgarian rose, the iconic symbol of love!’ I sang as I flew up the stairs three steps at a time.
‘Asper, are you drunk? Do you have a death wish?!’ Cobalt thundered from the stairwell.
‘What is up, bestie?’ Amber caught me at my door. ‘Why so happy? Your smile could outshine the sun. Scratch that-my hair- It’s outshining my hair. Now what’s up.’
Pulling her towards me, I whispered my improvised plan into her ears and she grinned so wide, she put the joker to shame.
Meanwhile, Marco and Dagon were screaming at me not to do it over mind link. But hey, if I didn’t go all the way when I’m doing something, I wouldn’t be called Asper. Turning to Amber, I nodded and braced myself. Amber took a deep breath and screamed.
‘OH MY GOD I KNOW WHEN YOU’RE LIKE THIS, ASPER.’ the scuffle downstairs seemed to quieten down. ‘You’re in love aren’t you?!’
‘Maybe.’ I said in the most convincing tone of voice I could manage. Xavier must have heard it because he started spewing curses in demonic.
I was laughing now, still high on adrenaline when suddenly, I felt a something snap from within my ribcage. Then came the excruciating pain that took over. I didn’t scream. I couldn’t. Instead, I let my legs give way under me as I watched Amber’s face turn from amusement to horror.
Everything seems to happen in slow motion. The Amber seemed to get further from my reach, the voices in my head turned into faint buzzing and I watched Amber scream for help. At least I think she was. The sound of heavy footsteps on the parquet flooring drummed into my ears and I realized I was already on the ground. Right before my vision give way, I saw Xavier stumble up the stairs, hand clenching his chest as he fought to reach of me.
He almost had me. That warmth of his being, so close. So comforting. But before I could enjoy it on my skin, everything went black.