Authors: Lola Kidd
They were in Remus’s cramped office. Troy wanted to get back in the air. Stretching his wings had done wonders for his mood. Being back on the ground, he could feel the effects waning. It was going to get worse when he had to eat with Hera and try to pretend he didn’t despise the monarch. As beautiful as she was and as nice as she liked to play, she ruled with an iron fist. Unlike his place in castle Blackfire, Hera lived away from her people. They weren’t welcome to come and speak with her about their day or any problems they were having.
There was animosity between their grandparents since dozens of people had left Eternal Sun Village for Blackfire. The problem grew when his mother married a man from Blackfire instead of Hera’s father. The cities still enjoyed a pretense of civility but only because Hera expected to marry Troy or Tavis. She didn’t care that Tavis preferred the company of men. A Blackfire prince was her birthright. It didn’t matter which one it was. The only reason she had set her sights on him of late was his claim to the throne.
Troy knew what would become of his city if he let Hera get her hands on it. Increasingly, the only end he saw was war. All roads led to it. If he married Hera and she wanted to subjugate his people, they would go to war. If he didn’t marry Hera and denied her a royal mate, they would go to war. He didn’t see a way out that didn’t involve war. He was putting of any decision as long as he could. In the interim, maybe Hera would find someone else she wanted to marry. A long shot but not entirely out of the question. There were many men who would kill to marry her. One was bound to catch her eye eventually.
“Why did you bring me here?” Troy asked Remus. His mood was ruined now that he had thought about Hera and marriage. Remus was wasting his time. The old man was searching through stacks of paper and old books.
“Just one more minute. I know its here. I was looking at it just before you got here.”
That was likely to be years ago or just ten minutes ago. Remus was terrible at keeping track of things. Troy’s father had confined him to one room to help him stay organized but it hadn’t helped. Troy would be waiting all day.
Remus held up a book triumphant. “Here it is!”
He brought the old paper to Troy. Troy turned the book over and over. “What is this? The words are too faded for me to read.”
“Don’t you remember this?” Remus asked dismayed. “This is the story about the ghost from the many places.”
Troy looked closer at the paper. He could barely make out a small picture of a man in funny clothes. “Oh. I think I see it now. I haven’t seen this in ages.”
“You were never as interested in the mythology as Tavis was,” Remus said wistfully. “Do you remember the story?”
“Some…wait. I see where you’re going with this. I don’t have time for this Remus. Hera is staying at the castle and will be joining us for evening meal before she goes home.”
“You have to make time for this! This England tribe is from another world Troy. I’m sure of it.”
“How can you be sure?” Troy threw the book on the table.
“The wraith created a wall in the middle of the forest. Where did all these people come from and how do they have the powers they do? They aren’t like the wraiths. They come from the sea and none of these people came from the sea.”
“They do have strange powers.” Troy admitted. “The princess created some kind of force field using her hands. It protected us from an errant flame from Hera. The forest around us burned to a crisp.”
Remus’s stroked his beard. “Powers like these are unlike any I’ve seen before. Could she repeat it for me here?”
“I don’t think so. She seemed surprised she was able to do it at all. Her sister must have incredible power if she was able to create a wall using magic alone. No wraith has done anything like that before.”
“We only see wraiths every few years and never in this number,” Remus said dismissively. “They say they aren’t from Manna and I believe them.”
“How did they get here then? Have you seen a tunnel to these other worlds you speak of?”
“I haven’t but they must exist. The ghosts spoke of it.”
“And we haven’t seen a ghost in my lifetime.”
“But I’ve seen one. They’re real Troy. We can’t take the appearance of these fae lightly.”
“What would you have me do with them Remus?”
“Make them open a bridge for me. I would like to see this other world.”
“It sounds to me like they were banished from their world. If they could open a way back to their land, they wouldn’t be creating walls in our world.”
“But you could ask. The princess is fond of you. She would help me if you asked her.”
“She isn’t fond of me,” Troy grumbled. “She’s nice because I saved her life and nothing more.”
“I saw how she looked at you when she got off your back. The girl is sweet on you Troy. Even you aren’t that blind.”
“You are an old man who sees what he wants to see. I will ask. If she is able to open a bridge, you will the first of us to cross it.”
Troy left Remus to dream of his other worlds so he could get ready for evening meal. When he got back to his room, Tavis was sitting on the bed stark naked.
“What took you so long? I saw you flying back to the castle hours ago.”
Troy threw open his bureau and pushed the clothes around viciously. “How nice of you to join us Tavis.”
“I’ve barely been gone half a day. Be nice Troy. I came back as soon as I saw Hera close to the castle.”
“You saw her coming and didn’t warn me?”
“You were already gone when I got back. You saw the wall then?”
“I did. It was impressive.”
“I wonder how Hera heard about it so quickly. I assume that’s why she was flying our way.”
“We saw here there. She almost killed us.”
“What?!” Tavis sat up on the bed. “What happened?”
“She was trying to burn it down but the flame bounced back and came right for us.”
“My god. How did you survive?”
Troy pulled a black cloak and shirt from their hangers and opened his pants drawer. “Lena saved us.”
“Lena? The princess?”
Troy pulled on the pants and buttoned the shirt.
“Are you mad at me Troy?”
He fumbled with the buttons and had to start again. He unbuttoned it too fast and a button ripped off. Sighing, Troy ripped off the shirt and threw it on the ground. He went back to the bureau to get a different shirt.
“Troy. Could you please talk to me?”
“You’re always running off whenever you want to.”
Tavis was taken aback. “Yes. I don’t like being in my human skin all the time. You know this. It’s been that way since we were children.”
“Don’t you ever think that I want to fly away too? Maybe I’d like to get a break from this place.”
“So then do it. You don’t have to stay in this skin if you don’t want to. Come with me. We can go now. Have a quick fly before we eat. I’m already dressed for the occasion.”
Troy smiled despite his anger. “I can not leave now Tavis.”
“Why not? No one needs you right now. They won’t even notice you’re gone. The castle isn’t going to burn because you went out for an hour of fun.”
Troy wavered. Was it really that easy? What if someone needed him while they were away?
It was just an hour
, he told himself. He would be a much better dinner companion if he was in a good mood. He pulled his pants off. “Let’s go.”
Tavis clapped him on the back. “That’s the spirit.”
The brothers went to the balcony off Troy’s bedroom and jumped off. Before hitting the water, Troy finished his transformation and pulled up sharply. His claws just touched the water as he skimmed the water. He hadn’t even told Tavis about Remus’s idea but it could wait. Tavis would probably be excited that he got to meet someone from another world.
Troy put all of that from his mind as he flew wing-to-wing with his mirror image. They were racing to the edge of the world. They hadn’t done in many nights. Troy was going to win this time. He usually pulled up before crashing into the hard edge of the horizon but this time he wouldn’t. Either Tavis would pull up or they were going to hit the edge.
Troy raced ahead at full speed. Great yellow fish jumped out of the water as he passed. The school was following his path just under the surface of the water. He could see the hundreds of fish swimming in a crazy formation as he flew the same path. The end was coming. The fish swimming ahead were descending as they got close to the blurry end. Some jumped out of the water and actually touched the wall. He looked at Tavis, daring him to keep going.
They were just feet from the wall when Tavis pulled up. Troy had won! He followed Tavis up the edge of the wall into the sky. They flew into the clouds dancing around each other. Tavis flew hard and then banked on a wind gust. They were over Blackfire. Children waved as they flew overheard.
Troy roared loud enough to shake the mortar in between the bricks of the castle. The pair flew until they hit the artificial wall put up by Lena’s sister. It made Troy angry. There were miles more for them to fly beyond her wall. She had no right to lock them away from their land. He shot a green flame toward the wall and dodged out of the way when it came screeching back at him. Her wall went all the way up the barrier in the sky. There was no way around.
Tavis led him away from the wall and back toward the beach. They flew over the black sand bobbing and weaving around each other. It was dangerous to be so close to the ground but Troy trusted his brother. They had never run into each before.
A scream cut across the beach and broke their fun dance. Troy pulled up to get a better view. Tavis touched down on the beach and he twisted his long neck until he was looking behind him. Seeing nothing, Tavis took to the air with Troy. They went further up the beach until they heard the scream again. It was definitely a woman and she was very frightened.
The twin dragons followed the sound until Tavis broke away. Troy followed but he didn’t see what Tavis saw. His brother hit the ground and went into the woods. Trees flew up around him. There was more screams and then the trees lit up in green flames. Tavis backed out of forest and took to the air again.
Troy didn’t follow right away. There was something in the air. It was just like on the beach when he first saw Lena. He stood his ground as sand swirled under his claws. The green flames flicked out and three figures emerged from the trees. A man and woman with blue hair flanked a beautiful black haired woman. He had to look twice. For a moment, he was sure he was staring at Hera. But no, this woman wasn’t the Eternal Sun Queen. Whoever she was, she was just as beautiful.
She screeched when she saw Troy. “You!”
She hurled a bolt of lightening from her hands. It hit Troy just above his heart. Pain shot through his chest. He roared and opened his mouth to burn the woman alive. Whoever she was, she meant to do him harm. The green flame left his mouth but before it reached her, the woman put up her hand. The flames hit the air around her but didn’t touch her or her companions. It was just like when Lena had saved him and his group.
He stopped trying to burn the woman and took to the air too. He flew around the forest and the beach but he didn’t see Tavis. He went closer to the castle and caught sight of his brother in human form. Troy dived for the ground and transformed before he hit the dirt with a light thud.
“Did you see that woman?!” he asked Tavis excited. “She used the same magic as Lena.”
“That must be the sister.” A shaky voice said.
Troy looked down. There was a woman sitting in the dirt behind Tavis. She was wearing a long dress with sparkles and had a band with a feather in it around her head. Her blonde hair was cut very short and had odd waves in it. She couldn’t have come from Blackfire or Eternal Sun. None of their women dressed like that. But she also wasn’t dressed like Lena’s people or even the beast-woman.
“Who is this?” Troy asked his brother.
“She says her name is Margaret.”
Margaret!” the woman said from the ground. Her voice was stronger with anger. “I have no idea who you two are what you are but I need help. That woman is going to kill me!”
“We’re not going to let her get you.” Tavis turned to Troy and spoke softly. “The black haired woman was chasing her with the blue haired ones. She was using the same magic the wraith on the beach used. Lena’s sister.”
“She says she’s my sister!” The woman stood up. “I don’t’ know what you two are whispering about but I need to know if you’re going to help me or not. I’m a shifter too you know. You should help your own kind.”
“Why didn’t you shift?” Tavis asked.
“I couldn’t once I got out from behind the wall. I don’t know what’s going on but I can’t shift at all.”
No wonder the woman sounded so scared. If he couldn’t shift, Troy would be out of his mind. “Hold on. Did you say you were behind the wall?”
The woman nodded. “Sophia brought me here and said I needed to help her. Says were sisters and gave me some line about family helping each other out. I have never seen that woman a day in my life and I sure as hell am not a fairy.”