Chapter Twenty-Four

Meadow scurried away but Lux easily grabbed her with his teeth and dragged her back to me.
“Who gave that to you?” Lux growled as he stared into her eyes.
“I…I…” Meadow stuttered and I frowned. “I found my rider.”
I had to keep myself from dropping my mouth open in shock and Lux narrowed his eyes at her, “Who?”
“That’s beside the point, Lux,” I glanced up at him. “She’s one of them now.”
“I didn’t mean for this to happen!” She yelled, pacing back in forth in front of me. I take a step back, surprised at her outburst. “It isn’t his fault.”
“Who?” Lux asked again, his tone harsher.
Meadow hung her head, “His name is Michael Green.” I asked her how it happened. “I met Michael a couple weeks back. He had bonded himself to a unicorn, but the unicorn was killed recently. Michael had run away from the unicorn army, and was wandering aimlessly when I stumbled upon him. I had known who he was before I hatched, but finding him in the forest was serendipitous.” Her tone had turned light as she spoke about him. “He’s magnificent, Lux.” Lux scoffed and I raised an eyebrow at him.
“We were just together, learning more about each other when a group of unicorns and riders descended upon us. Michael tried to protect me, but they held me down with a metal net,” Meadow’s voice shuttered as she shook her wings. “Michael was screaming, but they took this device,” Meadow gestured to the black scale on chest, “and put it on me. They threatened Michael that they would kill me if he didn’t join them, but with me. I was sent back to spy and report back.” Her eyes looked into mine, “I wouldn’t be doing this if Michael wouldn’t be killed. I can’t live without him, Liona.”

I sighed, “I know. Where’s Michael now?”
“Here,” a male figure revealed himself on the opposite side of the clearing. Meadow flew towards him, but Lux stepped in front of her. He roared at Michael, who stood his ground, but his eyes held some fear.
“Lux, let him by,” I patted his scales and he glared at me. “Like it or not, he’s your sister’s rider.”
“He’s a traitor,” Lux snarled.
“Please,” Meadow cried at Lux. “It’s not his fault.”
“But it is,” Michael said, hanging his head. “She wouldn’t be threatened if it wasn’t for me.”
“Even he agrees,” Lux said, swishing his tail.
“Lux, you can’t do anything about it,” I said across our link and he answered me with silence, but backed away, allowing Meadow to reach Michael.
She flew into him, causing them to tumble to the ground. Michael laughed as she nuzzled against his face and I smiled involuntarily. I walked toward him, offering my hand, “Let me introduce myself. I’m Liona, and this is my bonded dragon, Lux, king of all dragons.”
Michael took my hand and stood up, shaking it, “I’m Michael and I’m bonded to Nyvu.”
“So, you named her something different?” I asked, slightly surprised.
“Yes,” he smiled. “I didn’t know she had another name.”
“It’s no problem,” I smiled back. “I like it.” Lux rolled his eyes and I glared at him, “Would you stop? You’re supposed to set an example, King.” Lux huffed and turned his head from me, and I returned my attention to Michael. “I’m so sorry, he’s not normally like this.”
“It’s alright,” Michael looked toward Lux. “He’s just a protective older brother, I get it.”
“Do you have younger siblings?” I ventured to ask.
“Yes,” he smiled wistfully. “A younger sister, Kathy.” He settled down on a tree stump and I sat in front of him on the ground. Meadow, now Nyvu, settled herself in his lap, barely fitting. Lux finished pouting and laid his head on the ground next to me. “Our parents were killed by the unicorn army a few years ago.”
“How awful.”
“It was. I was taken into the army, trained, and given a unicorn. But something always felt off,” he paused and scratched Nyvu under her chin. “I now know why.”
“Where’s Kathy now?”
Michael’s eyes flashed as his body tightened in anger, “They took her from me. Not only are they holding Nyvu captive, but Kathy as well. I’m assured she’s well taken care of, but I cannot see her until I do what I’m told.”
“You and Romero,” I shook my head and his eyes widened.
“You know Romero?”
I rolled my eyes, “Yeah. He tried to kidnap me, before asking me for help getting him and Shadow out from under the army’s thumb.”
Michael whistled, “Romero is terrifying.”
“He’s wimpy, like you,” Lux mumbled and I shoved him.
“Leave him alone,” Nyvu chastised. “He’s a great person and rider.”
“It’s fine, Nyvu,” Michael said, not sounded nearly as offended as I thought he would be. “King Lux doesn’t know me.”
“Lux is fine,” I said to Michael.
Lux huffed, “King Lux is better.”
“Shut it,” I hissed through my teeth. “Are you coming to Argonite, Michael?”
He shook his head, “You aren’t supposed to know about me. Nyvu is supposed to feed me information.”
I tapped my chin in thought, “I wonder if we can use this to our favor.”
“You won’t be putting Nyvu in any unnecessary danger, right?” Michael’s eyes bore into mine.
“Of course not,” Lux answered for me.
“Okay. Then what’s the plan?”

Chapter Twenty-Five

After explaining and tweaking our plan, Lux, Nyvu and I all returned to Argonite.
“Do you trust him?” Lux asked Nyvu, landing beside us as we reached the treeline surrounding the school.
She looked at him incredulously, “Of course I do. He’s my rider.”
Lux didn’t answer as he lumbered toward the school. I followed behind, agreeing with Lux’s wary thoughts about Michael. We did only just meet him.
“I’m going to my cave,” Nyvu announced, leaving Lux and I alone, but not for very long.
“Hey!” Donovan called, wearing his training armor. “Want to spar?”
“Sure,” I smiled, heading to our previous training area, feeling much calmer and more relaxed due to Lux returning. Lux left us to hunt, his massive body disappearing from my eyes within a few flaps of his wings.
We began with swords and during our sparring, Donovan began to ask me questions.
“What did Romero want with you?” Donovan wiped sweat from his brow and I took the opportunity to swipe at him.
I shrugged in return, “Probably just to bait me to get to Lux.”
Donovan hummed, our swords clanking together once more. “You look a lot better now that he’s returned. What happened to him during the Fang Shift?”
I told him the basics of how much he had grown and the cave he lived out of, leaving Romero out of it. I felt like I should be keeping the more intimate details to myself.
“How’s your magic?” he smiled, lowering his sword, his eyes lighting up. “Can I see?”
“Sure,” I showed him my mastery over wind, earth, and water.
“Impressive!” A voice called out from the side, Justin appearing from view. “What about fire?”
I chuckled nervously, “There’s too many trees around for me to try that here.”
“What are you doing here?” Donovan asked Justin, who shrugged, picking a sword off the rack.
“Ever since the army attacked, I’ve been trying to improve even more than before,” Justin explained. “Can I train with you?”
Before long, the three of us were sparring together, Tevan, Kelsey, and Nate joining us as well. We practiced all throughout the day, my friends’ dragons practicing their fighting skills as well. Lux returned and watched, he was worried about hurting the others. A few times he was able to tell me about an opponent who had approached me from the back, which was quite useful.
“Let’s take a break,” Nate sighed and we all paused, taking huge breaths and collapsing on tree stumps. The dragons paused their fighting as well, returning to their riders.
Suddenly, Mariona burst into the clearing, her eyes quickly locating me, “Liona! You and Lux must come to Skylop quickly!” I jumped up from my seat and hurried after her.
“What’s wrong?” I asked as we ran back to the main portion of the school. My friends and dragons followed along behind.
“The army found it,” her eyes portrayed how terrified she was. “It’s full of innocent creatures…” she trailed off, and I instantly asked Lux to put me on his back.
“Lead the way,” I commanded her, as she got on to Karosi.
“What about us?” Justin called up, already sitting atop Rubone.
“We can help!” Tevan called, Cornelius’ silver scales glinting in the sunlight as they circled around us.
“We’ll take whoever we can get!” Mariona shouted, taking off into the sky. My friends and I followed, a few other more experienced riders and dragons from the school following.
“How dare they,” Lux growled in my head as he easily kept up with Karosi. “Attacking Skylop is atrocious.”
I scowled, “My sentiments exactly.” I thought about how excepting everyone had been there, hatching Lux. A small smile flitted across my face before it disappeared into a frown as I thought about the danger everyone was in.
“We will protect them.” Lux reassured me. “We are strong and capable.”
I hunched down on Lux’s back as rain began to pelt us. It really made it feel like we were heading to war.
And when we arrived, war it became.

Chapter Twenty-Six

Lux sent a burst of energy into the side of the mountain, creating an opening. We soared through. We must’ve been a majestic sight, for the entire battle paused to watch us and our allies descend toward the fight.
Parts of creatures were scattered across the blood-stained ground. Skylop was no longer a place of peace, but one of destruction. Power flowed through my body as cold determination coursed through it. My friends and allies had the same look on their faces as they watched Lux and I. The bloodshed had returned below—the unicorn army fighting fiercer than ever. It seemed like vendetta felt the same as well. She seemed to quiver at my hip before I unsheathed her. Brandishing her ahead of me, I let out a cry as Lux let forth a burst of fire. All the other dragons and riders followed suit as we landed on the ground. Shaking like an earthquake at the impact, there were few who were able to stay standing.
I used wind to lift me off Lux’s back, landing on my feet lightly. Manipulating his energy, Lux attacked a few soldiers on unicorn-back. Due to Lux’s size and color, we were instantly recognized and became the focus of most of the attacks. I was dueling with three soldiers, when a cut at my leg caught me by surprise. This was when I realized I was not wearing armor, unlike those I was fighting against.
“Hello, old friend!” Gafid swung a club, knocking two of my opposers together. Instead of the easy smile I remembered him having, his face was taut with worry.
“Hey!” I yelled back over the clashing of vendetta against an enemy sword. Lux nudged my mind, reminding me of my powers. In a flash, I had soldiers falling toward the ground from my wind, water, and earth abilities. Lux was using his purple energy, and all of his other assets as a dragon—claw, tooth, and tail.
By ourselves, we were cutting easily through the masses. Everything was going alright until one voice cut over the sounds of war.
I hurriedly looked around for the person connected with the voice and my heart clenched at the image. My father and one of my brothers are covered in blood, fighting off attacks from two Flaskis.
“Stop!” I yelled, and the four fighters paused in their battle. War continued to rage around us as I made my way to the creatures I had frozen.
“Liona,” my father repeated as I approached. “Why can’t I move?”
I release the Flaskis and send them off to fight other people as I keep my two family members frozen. “I have magic, Father. Since Lux and I—”
“How dare you,” my brother, Tyler, hissed, his eyes darkening. “How dare you ride one of those bloodthirsty monsters!”
Anger bubbled up and I poked Tyler in the chest, “How dare you call my other half a monster! You’re the monsters to attack an innocent city full of innocent creatures!” A few Perstians flew by as they attacked a riderless unicorn.
“Darling!” I turned and watched as my mother ran towards me, her arms outstretched. I allowed her to hug me, not returning the sentiment as my two other brothers ran up from behind her. They brandished their weapons, so I instantly froze them, leaving only my mother unfrozen. Their unicorns tried to come to their defense, but Lux kept them occupied as I spoke to my family.
“Who told you about the location of Skylop?” I glared at each of my family members in turn.
It was Zeke, one of my other brothers, who spoke up, “We just received word from our leader that this place was to be attacked. As a unit, we followed the directions of our superior officer.” He sneered at me and I rolled my eyes in return.
“Mother,” I turned to her after sheathing vendetta, “You cannot believe that I would ride something I believed to be a monster, would you?”
She looked into my eyes, before lowering them, “No, darling. I don’t think that you would.”
My frustration only grew with her admittance, “Then why do you hunt such creatures?”
“I—I…” Mother stuttered, but a shout took my attention away from my family.
“Liona, come quick!”
Please watch them. I said to Lux, who guarded them and fought off attackers as I hurried toward the scream. “What is it?” I yelled toward Kelsey, who was kneeling on the ground. She shifted and I took a sharp breath. Donovan laid on the ground, a gash deep in his stomach. Amari hovered over him as Nisha protected the three of them with his lightning fast attacks.
“Amari, are you strong enough to get him out of here?” I asked her and she looked back down at Donovan, before nodding her head once. “Take him back to Argonite, they should be able to take care of him.”
“Lia—” Donovan weakly said, and I swiftly took Kelsey’s place kneeling beside him.
“I’m sorry.”
“For what?”
“Not telling you sooner,” he said, before starting a coughing fit.
“Donny, get to the point. Amari needs to get you out of here.”
He reached up with one hand, caressing my cheek. I was surprised, but what happened next shook me to my core.
He tugged on my neck, bringing my face close to his. He sat up swiftly, before meeting my lips with his own. I pulled away, my heart threatening to jump from my chest as I stared at him with wide eyes.
“Take him now, Amari. He’s delirious,” I said, as I got my emotions under control, and she placed him on his back. I watched as she took off, exiting through the same hole we entered from.
I exchanged glances with Kelsey, who seemed embarrassed on my behalf, “Return to the battle, Kels.”
But the battle is over, Lux said through our link. I looked around us to see all the unicorn warriors either dead or fleeing through the hole they had created to get in. Other than cuts and bruises, the rest of the dragons and their riders were fine.
The creatures of Skylop, however, were not. The living Flaskis, Gladens and Perstians, were scattered about, crying over their perished friends and family. My own family remained frozen, their unicorns having given up and laid down behind them. I returned to them, Lux leaning his head down to survey them closer.
“Hello, Liona’s family,” he said softly. I unfroze them, watching them carefully. They watched as the last of their brethren fled.
“Family, this is Lux, King of Dragons,” I introduced him. “Lux, this is my family. My father, Dunham, my mother, Lucille, and my three younger brothers, Tyler, Zeke, and Xavier.”
Only Tyler seemed still angry, as the rest of my family stared in awe at Lux.
“He’s magnificent,” Xavier said, and I felt pride at his words. The other dragons and riders made their way toward us, surrounding my family.
“Wow,” my father said, looking around. “You have a bond with them?”
“Yes,” Tevan stepped forward, her bloody hand resting on Cornelius’ snout. “They are a part of us, as your unicorns are a part of you.”
“That’s why yours never showed up, Liona,” my mother said, tears gathering in her eyes. “You always belonged with Lux.”
I rested my hand against one of his claws, and he hummed in agreement.
“Please, mother, father,” I looked at them pleadingly. “We don’t have to live in a world where we kill each other. We can live in peace.”
They seemed to ponder it for a moment, before agreeing. Tyler continued to be quiet, his eye portraying his real feelings.
I was only hoping I could turn him before he did something drastic.

Chapter Twenty-Seven

Skylop was in complete disarray. The deceased creatures were cremated with the help of Lux and the other dragons. Families collected their remains in various containers, planning on giving them the rituals needed for them to ascend peacefully into the afterlife. I assisted with the wounded, helping carry those who needed it. We gathered them in the castle I had previous stayed at. Donovan’s condition lingered in the back of my mind as I tried to do whatever I could to help. My family was helping as well, although their unicorns seemed skittish around the much larger dragons. My brothers were gathering discarded weapons while my parents were helping the injured.
Before long, Lux and I were summoned by the leaders of Skylop to discuss our next move. Everyone but Jarnet was in attendance, due to his extensive injuries.
“We cannot just stay here,” Wennin said, sighing. One of his lenses was cracked and they were in danger of falling off his face completely. “This safe haven is no longer safe.”
“I sadly agree,” Anina spoke up, her voice thick with despair. “But where will we go?”
“Argonite,” I suggested, and the leaders turned their eyes to me. “Even though the army knows where we are located, the remaining creatures will have the dragons at their disposal. I know Lux and I will do everything to protect them.”
“Argonite has room,” Mariona said, absentmindedly petting Karosi.
“How will we get everyone there?” Makai looked the most battle-worn of us all. His bandages were soaked through, but he acted as though it didn’t bother him.
“I can get everyone there,” Lux stated and I looked up at him in surprise.
“You cannot fly everyone all the way to Argonite.”
“Who said anything about flying?” His tone was slightly teasing before addressing the council again. “I have gained an ability to form time tunnels between two places.”
Since when? I posed to him through our link, but he didn’t answer.
“The only thing is that I will have to create an opening at Argonite as well as here,” he explained and the council nodded.
“Are you sure you can do this?” Wennin stared at Lux. “We do not want the creatures to become more wounded than they already are.”
“Lux and I will create one here, fly to Argonite, and return using the tunnel. If we turn out alright, it should be safe for everyone,” I answered and the leaders seemed to agree. “We will leave right away after Lux creates the tunnel here.”
The meeting disbanded and I climbed on Lux as he lumbered to where he wanted to make the time tunnel. I remained silent as I felt Lux’s mind empty of everything unnecessary.
I need your help. He said softly between us and I replied, asking what I needed to do. We must merge our magic. Our link opened wider as I flowed my magic into his own. To say Lux was powerful was an understatement. I hadn’t realized the amount of power he had until I merged with him. I felt overwhelmed as my body began to quiver, not used to the power flowing through me. Relax. Lux’s voice washed over me as I allowed the power to flow into every inch of my body. Together! Lux roared and without knowing what I was doing, we projected our magic forward. I was using our energy for the first time due to the connection with Lux and I understood why it was his magic of choice.
I felt strong. I felt bold. I felt powerful.
A loud crash sounded as our magic slammed into the wall of the mountain, but when the rubble cleared nothing was there.
Lux? I weakly asked as I searched the area in front of us. I had severed our link, my body not able to withstand anymore of Lux’s intense magic.
I watched the rock. Suddenly, a massive purple whirl appeared, bringing a massive gust of wind with it. My cropped hair whipped around, the tips slapping my face as I gazed at our creation with admiration.
“That was magnificent,” I said aloud and Lux snaked his head around to look at me.
You are magnificent.
I grinned largely, my strength returning as Lux send me a small amount of his energy, restoring my depleted stock. You are too, dragon-half.
We said quick goodbyes to our friends and my family, knowing we would see them before long. As we soared through the sky back to Argonite, we allowed ourselves to enjoy the flight. The rain had lightened to a mist, the sun streaming through cracks in the clouds. The mist felt cooling on my skin and made Lux’s scale sparkle in the light. We didn’t speak much, but I felt as though we molded into one. I felt the wind tugging at Lux’s wings, and strained with him when he needed to flap. I saw what he saw, small animals in the forests and grasslands below.
We’re almost there. Lux mentioned and I nodded, despite him not able to see me. Abruptly, a flash of gray appeared in front of us, stopping our forward motion.
“Liona!” Romero called from the back of Shadow. He pointed toward the ground and I reluctantly agreed. We landed in an open grassland, shaking the earth. I jumped from Lux, proud of my light footing and met Romero halfway between Shadow and Lux.
“Hello,” I said as friendly as I could.
“Hi,” Romero smiled cheekily.
I raised an eyebrow at his attitude, “I just came from the devastation at Skylop and you’re smiling like the world is bright and happy?”
He schooled his expression, a lingering smile still tugging at his lips, “I’m sorry I couldn’t warn you about Skylop in time.”
Lux growled and I looked up at him, semi-surprised. But then I saw what he was growling at. The unicorn army was pouring from the surrounding forest. I unsheathed vendetta as I myself snarled at Romero, “You tricked us.”
Romero shrugged, “I was promised freedom for Shadow and I. I will do anything for him, even betraying you to do it.” I used my magic to push Romero down and hold him frozen. I froze Shadow as well as Lux began taking on the army.
“Stop!” A masculine voice I didn’t recognize rang out and I looked toward the shout. He was dressed in a crisp, white shirt under a black tailored jacket, with matching tailored pants. I didn’t understand why he would wear to a battle. I was shoved to the ground by an unseen force, and I saw Lux struggling against it as well until he too collapsed.
“King Lux and Lady Liona,” the man wandered around his at-the-ready soldiers to stand before me. I was laying awkwardly on my stomach, so all I could now see were his shiny shoes. What odd footwear. The thought flashed through my head before Lux reminded me to return to the issue at hand. “How lovely to finally meet you.”

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Sequel: The Dragon's Kindred Spirit

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