A door opens at the back of the den; through it I caught a glimpse of another larger area. These seem to be a series of connected caverns. The trees above form the structure, but the roots appear to burrow straight into the stone, and they glow with bioluminescence, easily lighting the entire area. I can nearly see veins and arteries flowing through the roots, pulsing with life. The walls are smooth and the area well-maintained. These are obviously well-tended living areas. The doorway darkens and a large figure strides through. My breath catches and every sense, every instinct, everything that makes me who I am, every bit of me that is female and Goddess, goes on alert.
He is close to 7 feet tall but so well-proportioned, that if you were not close to him or had scale, it would be difficult to determine his actual size, other than just big. His eyes gleam the blackest of black, the pupils nearly lost. His finely hewn features are devastating in their symmetry. His jaw squared and his nose straight but for a slight crook in the bridge. The points of his ears are just visible through the fall of light blonde hair that barely reaches his shoulders. His bare chest is heavy with muscle and marked by what looks like a tattoo. His shoulders are made wider by the pauldron that rests over his left and the gauntlet that covers his entire right arm. His torso is long, and the rock hard stomach tapers to his waist. Sleek muscles wrap his frame like armor. Leather pants cling low on his narrow hips, held up by a belt and a large metal buckle. Thick, powerful thighs flex as he stalks, on booted feet, across the sandy floor. The physical power of him is like a slap to the face. The wings at his back are shockingly beautiful, curving, in a graceful arc above his head, the colors an amalgamation of fire. Yellow, orange, white and all the variations of red are displayed in the sweeping beauty of those feathers. Despite the size of them, he holds them off the ground with ease, explaining the heavy muscles in his chest and shoulders. This is a warrior in his prime.
The creatures turn to look at him as he walks in, both of them coming alert and baring their fangs. He slows and then stops at their reaction. He tips his head, his brow furrowed, watching both of them warily. The large male shifts to his feet, his movements filled with primal grace. His massive paws silent on the sand as he stalks forward. The warrior shifts, keeping his eyes focused on the two beasts. He turns his head to the doorway and a moment later, another beast lopes into the room. This one even larger than the male, but with a sense of him being younger. His coat is long and wavy, silky and thick, flaring around his head. It is not quite a mane, but close. The off-white of his fur is broken by an almost delicate filigree of dark grey lines looping in graceful spirals. The thicker fur around his face is broken by straight dark grey stripes and his face is marked with lines that almost look as if they had been planned out. They circle his eyes and break up the savage angles of his face, before flowing upwards to coalesce into the power of his horns. The surface of them gleams malachite in the low light of the cavern. His wings are a riot of ivory laid casually over his back like a feathered cloak. There is something about this creature, something almost regal in the way he carries himself.
He positions himself before the posturing pair, the ice blue-green gaze, like that of the heart of an iceberg, locks with the other male’s. Holding it steadily, he lets out a low grumbling sound that resonates deep in his powerful chest. The pair lifts their lips in displeasure, the female turning, her tail whipping the air as she lifts her head and screams. The sound reverberates off of the walls, filled with despair and fury.
The warrior shifts his gaze to the white beast. “Madec, what is wrong? What has happened?”
His heavy brow furrows in confusion and disbelief. “What do you mean, she is missing? They just hatched! They haven’t been out of the den!”
Madec growls again, his body held stiffly, he turns his gaze back to the warrior.
“A doorway? There should not be such a thing, the doorways have been closed for centuries! That is a horrible, lawless place and it is forbidden. We lost much to that realm. We do not go there!
The big man paces around the den, flickers of flame igniting in the ebony of his eyes. The little ones pounce and attack him playfully, climbing up his body with sharp claws, trying to reach his hands and arms. He twists a bit, attempting to count the little beasts. “Adralanian hatchlings are not supposed to be away from their clutch this soon! What will become of her? Which one was it? What was her name?”
There was a moment of stunned silence, the warrior’s body seeming to grow bigger. He growls low in his throat, his voice a snarl that rises all the hair on the back of my neck, “She IS SPECIAL! What do the little ones say?”
Madec turns his attention to the hatchlings, and they abandon the warrior and run, stumble, trip their way to Madec. Rubbing against him and attempting to climb up his body, he shakes his head as he tries to make sense of all their voices filling his mind. The female stops her pacing and lets out a soft rumble, every single one of the babies turning towards her and then settling down, their eyes swirling with excitement.
The warrior tips his head, in the pose that I have come to associate with the bond speak that these beings are capable of, and then he explodes in curses. He stares at Madec. “That is impossible! She could not have found her Kiri there! She is too little and humans are not able to bond!”
The warrior stalks towards the forest entrance and walks right through us. He stops abruptly and turns, his ebony eyes narrowing to slits, his nostrils flare and his body goes rigid. Madec carefully shakes the hatchlings from his body and lifts his head, inhaling deeply just as Ky’Elli had in the forest earlier. He glides across the sand coming towards the warrior, both of them scanning the room.
The man moves slowly, stepping back through us and freezes. Turning again, his eyes alight with amber fire and his upper lip lifting in a soft snarl that makes my heart skip a beat. His fangs glint in the low light, long and strong and gleaming white. His exposed left hand is lit from within with a glow, and I can see the armor on his right turn red. The skin begins to crack and his nails lengthen to talons, fire licking over flesh that had gone demonic. His gaze focuses directly on me and he takes a step closer. “Who are you!?” he bellows. The other male beast rises to his feet, his head lowers and his eyes search, he prowls towards us. Madec shifts to stand right next to the warrior and I gasp at the size of him, my head doesn’t reach his shoulder and he looms over me.
Ky’Elli lets out a low keen and whispers, “Revi!” in my head. I looked down at her and see that she is focused on the male with the dark auburn coat. I take a step back and all three advance.
“Ky’Elli, you need to get us out of here, we cannot be here. I cannot explain and I am not sure if they can hurt me, but I do not think I can use my powers here in this form.”
I lean down and pluck Ky’Elli up. All three males roar their fury, the female screams and lunges towards me in maternal protectiveness, and I know that she is the greatest danger of the four. I hug Ky’Elli to me, turning to protect her, and suddenly everything changes. We are back in the forest and I am curled around Ky’Elli. She shivers and nestles in close. I can feel her sorrow and her grief as she whispers, “Enan.” I search and find the meaning of the word – “Mama”.
We stay like that for a long time, before I lift to my feet. My senses on high alert, I cradle her close and retrace our path out of the forest. Deciding to walk rather than port, using the time to think and calm down. Ky’Elli snuggles close, sadness pouring off of her, her wings held tight against her body. “I am sorry, Ky’Elli, do you want to go back to your family? I will find a way to get you there if you want to go back.”
“I cannot, Kiri. I miss them, but you and I are Kirir, and I cannot leave you. Maybe someday I will go back, but I cannot go back without you.”
I make my way back to the tower and instead of entering it directly, I look around, and making sure that no one is nearby, I spread my wings and take flight. Landing on my balcony, I shoulder my way through the sliding door and settle Ky’elli on the bed before to the kitchen to make some tea and some more bacon for her. We could both use a little soothing.