First time reading? Catch up with everything on the Wingborn page.
You can also keep track of everyone with the Character List.
~ Previous Chapter ~
Oh, look, Willym. Remember him? I’ll bet you’ve missed having him around…
THE KAZ-NAGHKT WERE restless. Yullik was pacing again. It made Willym restless too. Monster squirmed inside of him, feeling the call of its brethren.
No, not brethren. The kaz-naghkt were foul, dumb, vicious beasts. Willym was human. Mostly. Just because his blood was dark, dark red now, didn’t mean he was one of them. He wasn’t. His blood wasn’t black, it was a very dark red. He didn’t have wings, he didn’t talk in shrieks and hisses and poorly formed words. He was intelligent. He wasn’t one of them.
“I am human.”
Stalking down the empty halls of Aquila, Willym tried to shake off Monster’s ever-present awareness of where Yullik was and what his temper was like today. Monster always knew. Yullik was Monster’s greatest fear, yet at the same time it was pathetically eager to please the crazy bastard. Which was why Willym was down here, stalking the hallways, even though the prowling kaz-naghkt were restless and hungry. Once that might have given him pause, especially when he didn’t have a sword by his side. Now the kaz-naghkt avoided him. Monster was always hungry and it wasn’t too nice in its tastes. Willym had learnt to adjust. Survival was, after all, the most important thing.
“I am human,” he repeated, just to remind himself, because survival was definitely a human trait, even if eating kaz-naghkt usually wasn’t. Still, it was better than eating other humans – even if they were only pirates. Willym did draw the line at that. It was just too uncivilised.
Monster snarled within. Willym ignored it and the memories of how sweet such meats could be. So much better than kaz-naghkt and much more wholesome than hibernating bear. But uncivilised, he reminded all parts of himself.
Another snarl, from his stomach this time. Great, now he was hungry.
A sound in the hallway made him tense. Freezing in place, his head rose, nostrils flaring, tasting the scents, searching for changes. The stench of kaz-naghkt was powerful, almost overwhelming the old blood beneath, though those stains were still dark and clear on the walls around him. Willym held still, allowing Monster to rise to the surface and spread its senses out through his weak human ones.
Something stirred. Not kaz-naghkt. Something else. Willym licked his lips as Monster stepped soundlessly towards the wall. He kept his bare feet flexed, having learnt to keep his claws away from the tell-tale rasp over stone. Shadows filled the hallway, allowing him to slink closer to the disturbance, saliva pooling his mouth at the thought of fresh meat, tender meat, a warm, delicious meal.
Sharp, cold steel pressed against his throat, angled just above his fierce pulse.
“Steady, old chap,” a mockingly familiar voice warned. “I think you’ll find this meat too rich for you.”
Willym tensed with annoyance, while deep inside Monster whined and retreated. His nostrils flared again, taking in the strange sharp, yet oddly empty scent that had hidden so well beneath the others – until Rion chose to reveal it.
“Oh, don’t threaten the poor child, brother,” Riame, the female of the captain twins, stepped around the corner with a smirk on her lips. “He can’t help being hungry.”
“He’s always hungry,” Rion said, tucking his knife away. “All of Yullik’s creations are.”
“A curious point,” Riame agreed, tilting her head to the left as her brother tilted his to the right. “Revealing too.”
“If you know where to look.”
While the twins smirked at each other, Willym stifled the urge to yawn. Once it had been unsettling to see them move in unison while spouting mysterious sentences. Now he’d grown used to it and, quite frankly, found it tedious.
“What are you doing up here?” he asked, not because he expected the twins to adhere to Yullik’s command that all pirates stayed out of the citadel – it wasn’t like they were real pirates, despite what they sometimes pretend to be – or because he was interested. He just wanted to divert their attention so they could all move on. Hopefully in different directions.
“What a marvellous guard dog you’re turning out to be,” Riame cooed, walking around him to join her brother. Same height, same colouring, almost identical faces. The only thing that truly told them apart was the difference in hair length and choices in clothing. Riame liked things tight to show off her figure, while Rion was more relaxed, favouring a South Imercian style of billowing shirts and baggy trousers, like a romantic pirate in a play. The materials and colours were the same, regardless of the fit. And those eyes. Those bright, piercing, too-clever eyes that glinted silver in the dim hallway and saw right through him to the cowering Monster within.
“Guard these walls well, Lord Willym,” Rion said, all sign of mocking or levity gone. “Your time is coming.”
“All our times are coming,” Riame agreed, but unlike her brother she still smirked. “Be a good dog and bark for your master when the intruders arrive.”
“Intruders?” Willym and Monster lifted their heads as one, stilling as if on a hunt.
Riame laughed lightly. “Don’t tell me your master hasn’t prepared his most faithful hound.”
“Or that the dog himself has not realised,” Rion murmured, his own smirk returning.
“How could he not?” Riame asked, raising her eyebrows at her brother. “He was at Nimbys when our esteemed lord and leader was so summarily beaten by those interfering dragons.
“Dragons,” Rion sighed heavily. “They always interfere.”
Monster snarled with frustration and Willym made no effort to keep the sound from escaping. “Speak plainly.”
The twins stared at him, heads turning, eyes blinking in perfect unison. “Speak plainly?” they echoed together. “Very well.”
“Nimbys has emptied,” Rion said, and his sister smiled.
“The Rift Riders are coming.”
~ Next Chapter ~
Thanks for reading!