Sunday, September 3, 2017

Morrigana - The Concert

The concert was due to start as we arrived. Six Winds had just stepped onto the stage, waving to their fans, house lights dimming. Elthanael and I opened the gate, allowing my Marauders to step forth exactly at our seats; dead center, front row. We locked eyes with the bards and took our seats.

After a brief pause, the other assassins began to sing.

"They're good," Deandra whispered after the first song. She was enjoying herself, leaning back in her chair, tapping her toes to the beat. Given that we weren't on an actual assignment, it was acceptable for her to be entertained.

Given that I'd been ordered not to fight them I should allow myself to be entertained.

But the Six Winds intrigued me. Especially their leader; a black dragon calling himself Sly. A hybrid like myself, I'd yet to identify either his clan or his other half. He preferred a burly elven form for his shape, like all our kind, with something wild in his gleaming eyes.

~You find him attractive,~ Elthanael whispered via tight mental link. No need for the entire coterie to hear this.

~Yes, I do,~ I replied, watching intently as Sly strutted and sang, playing to the crowd. ~There's something familiar to him, something I can't quite place my finger on.~

~A sibling you don't know about?~ El knew all about my history, about Father's experiments.

I shook my head, taking his hand. ~They all have a certain pheromone that marks them as his. I smell nothing from this one.~ Not that I'd been close enough for a thorough examination.

Not that I'd complain about getting close to him.

~They're this talented,~ Reinhart said on the coterie's general connection, ~and they're assassins?~ We all agreed they had fantastic voices.

~Imagine what we could do if we pooled our talents,~ Deandra put forth. My Marauders each had hobbies to fill the downtime, but battle was the only thing we did as a team. We were feared throughout the Universe, the best assassin team of the Age, but Six Winds seemed like they wanted our title. They were a double threat,both beautiful and deadly.

The song ended, and Sly stepped back, his eyes locked on me. Darkness wouldn't bother his draconic senses; he surely saw me staring back at him. The moment drug out, and would likely have lasted longer if Yrta hadn't begun to sing.

Crystalline clear, the pure note rang loudly from her, filling the hall with unbelievable power. The audience gasped as one, including myself. Tears sprang to my eyes as El clutched at my hand.

It was one thing to know she was a celestial diva. It was entirely another to actually hear her song.

"She's fabulous," Deandra whispered. Her voice was shaky, filled with awe. I didn't think anyone present would disagree.

Yrta was an extremely rare being, nearly unheard of in recent millennia. Celestial divas spawned from the Universal core itself, able to sing the Song of Creation. They had no drive or purpose, taking their song wherever celestial tides took them.

They certainly didn't become rockstar assassins.

Father had met one before, had shared the memory with me. It had been a sublime moment, basking in the purity of pure creation. That diva had been barely sentient, knowing no fear nor hate nor love nor hope.

Yrta seemed young in comparison, with an actual ego, and desires, and all the other facets Immortals shared. Her joy colored her song, enhancing her beauty in indescribable ways. I could bask in her voice for days.

Then Sly joined the song.

I tensed, moving to the edge of my seat. Everything else fell away, became meaningless in the warmth of their voices. Sublime and perfect were paltry words to describe what I was hearing. Raw emotion consumed me, and tears stood in my eyes.

Their harmonizing went on and on without end. I was distantly aware of Elthanael holding my hand, that he was nearly as enrapt as myself. The entire crowd held its breath as the song finally stopped.

I blinked several times, becoming aware of my surroundings again. My hand trembled within El's grasp, and his soul clung tight to mine, our bond beating in time with our hearts. What had they done to us?

Wiping tears from my cheeks, I glanced at my Marauders. We were all stunned, awed, musing over what we'd just witnessed. It was said that Six Winds used music as a weapon, and I could understand how that was possible. No one would be unmoved by their voices.

~They're watching you,~ Deandra said, mental voice shaky with emotion. ~They're testing you.~

~I'm sure they're scared of us,~ Elthanael replied. ~They have to wonder why we showed up in force.~

I smirked, returning my attention to Six Winds. ~Certainly not to pick a fight. That would go against our standing orders. We're simply here to enjoy their performance.~ In the dead center, front row of a sold-out, high-profile concert. We were surrounded by dignitaries and royalty; the exact types we normally hunted, destroyed, and made examples of.

While I would never disobey Father and pick a fight, I was absolutely picking a fight. I just wasn't sure f they would take the bait.

Sly began the next song, and it was like a slap in the face. He used the secret dragon tongue, the lover's tongue, the tongue almost no one else would know. El stiffened as I growled softly under my breath. My elven cousin knew the language, though none of my other Marauders did. He and I were probably the only two in the entire venue to understand Sly's challenge.

And challenge it was. His sexy, growling lyrics described a dark hero gone corrupt, and how a rising force saw it as their duty to stop him. While Six Winds had made no move against any of mine or my father's allies, I felt the intention in his song.

Yrta sang the next verse; the lyrics suggested an alliance, in the form of subtle threat. Stand against them and fall. Join them or else. Not quite an ultimatum. At least, not a direct one.

The song moved into the bridge, and I relaxed slightly. ~The fucking gall of them,~ Elthanael hissed. ~Do they really think to stand against Lord Shalafae?~ His question was only to me; the other Marauders remained silent as I shook with suppressed emotion.

I was enraged. I was shocked. I was disdainful. I was impressed. No one ever stood up to Father's empire.

Sly stepped forward, eyes locked on mine. He drew a deep breath, then let forth a long note. More like a roar. It filled the air, vibrating all the way to my core, a call to other dragons. A beckoning to come together.

I was on my feet without realizing it. Distantly, I heard El call me, but I was running on pure instinct. I opened my mouth and sang with Sly.

The hall fell silent. The very world fell silent as our voices mingled. Neither of us cared; our focus was only on each other. We drew closer, eyes locked, letting the note rock through our bodies.

Sly jumped off the stage, still roaring, and we were soon within arm's reach. Our voices rose and fell, barely interrupted by the need to draw breath. I noted the beautiful shade of blue of his eyes, and the familiar scent of his aura. But there wasn't time for thoughts, only the singing.

It had been too long since I'd sung with another dragon. The power and passion and beauty had almost been forgotten, but it surged to the fore as I joined with Sly. I trembled and ached and never wanted it to end.

Yrta joined in, and my focus snapped toward her, the song dying in my throat. How dare she join in on something she didn't understand? This was for dragons alone, no matter how beautiful her voice. I growled slightly.

Sly snarled, stepping between the diva and myself. "Leave her the fuck alone, bitch." The younger hybrid shoved me backward, and I stumbled over the train of my dress.

There was a brief pause as I regained my balance. El rose to his feet, the rest of my Marauders following suit. I held up a hand to stall them, then glared at Sly. "Do it again, whelp."

He growled, stepping up into my face. He wasn't much taller than I in my boots, but he was much broader and thicker. We locked eyes, and his lips pulled back from sharp white teeth. "Fuck you." He shoved me again.

All hell broke loose.

It happened fast. Sly and I lunged at each other, all snarls and flashing teeth. The remaining assassins paired off and raced toward each other. The crowd screamed and jumped from their seats, fleeing the scene of the outbreaking fight.

No thought was spared for anything but the half-dragon in front of me. He was fast and young, but I was faster, more skilled. Sly swung heavy fists, eschewing his claws, hoping to pound me into submission. I dodged and parried, toying with him rather than actually hurting him.

Sly grew aggravated, his frustration palpable to empathic senses. I laughed mentally, enjoying his impotence. I fed off it, drew it in, and smiled directly in his face. "So, this is the fearsome leader of the Six Winds?"

He roared, grabbed my wrist, and I allowed him to pull me close. "Just who do you think you are?"

Our faces were inches apart. His pupils were dilated, devouring the lovely blue iris. Hair tumbled across his forehead, a blush spread across his broad cheekbones. The familiarity of his features kept nagging at the back of my mind, but I shushed that little voice. "I'm the one who'll put a little whelp in his place." Keep picking at his age, using the dragon slur for untrained and rash hatchlings.

My words drove him past all reason.

Sly began to transform, hoping to take me in dragon form. I gave a telepathic warning to the others, then shifted myself. Two dragons filled the concert hall with barely enough room to move. We roared at each other, then I burst through the ceiling with a touch of magic. The night sky was ours.

We fought with flames and tails and claws. He wasn't much bigger than myself, long and lean and with slender horns. As we clashed, I recognized the characteristics of the Stygian clan. At least part off his heritage was revealed.

Stygians were known for speed and ferocity, and he had it in abundance. We stayed close to each other, twisting and turning in the smallest of spaces above the concert hall. Blood welled on each of us, razor claws tearing through heavy scales. Buildings burned beneath us, filling the night sky with smoke and flame.

Our coteries fought with matching ferocity. I sensed them through our bond, knew they held their own with the Six Winds, because they chose not to destroy them. The young assassins hadn't earned the ultimate death yet.

~Foolish whelp,~ I said telepathically, ~what do you think you'll accomplish by fighting me?~ I circled him, snapping and slashing, avoiding his poorly executed counterattacks.

~I won't let you eat her!~ His movements were wild and exaggerated; raw energy and talent with no focus or skill.

~Eat...her?~ I hovered, confusion robbing my will to fight. I knew he spoke of the diva, but I didn't know why he thought I'd try to eat her.

~I'm her protector.~ Sly hovered on a level with me, fire drooling from his open mouth. ~I swore my life to defend her from monsters like you.~

The imagery of his sending was clear; Father and I as greedy, gluttonous beings, perched on a pile of the vanquished, forever reaching for something else. Blood and gore dripped from my lips and fingers, all that remained of the innocent.

~You really think I'd eat someone capable of singing like her?~ I laughed at him, the sound rumbling through my chest.

Sly lost control, and flew at me in a rage. ~Monstrous bitch!~ He opened his mouth to shoot flames my direction, but completely failed.

I darted around the younger hybrid and came up beneath his guard. Sly couldn't dodge my snap, and I caught him by the throat, just behind the jaw. My momentum threw him off balance, but he tried feebly to break free. I grabbed his forelimbs as I pressed him backward, my wingbeats stronger than his.

~Listen up, whelp.~ I growled mentally and physically, looming over him with my presence. Sly went limp at my clear dominance; his dragon half was very responsive, knew that he couldn't beat me. This conversation would go much better that way.

~First, I've been called worse by better. Your insults are far from cutting.~ He hung beneath me, beating his wings enough to remain airborne. With a nudge and a mighty flap, I pressed him toward the concert hall roof.

~Second, I don't eat the innocent without provocation. Yrta was in no danger from me...until now.~ I sent him an image of her beautiful scream as I tore her limb from limb.

Fury surged through Sly, and he struggled against my bite. Savage fangs tore at his neck, filling my mouth with his blood. His telepathy was a wall of pure rage, no words, and he roared in defense of the diva. He lashed with tail, tore with claws, and writhed in an attempt for freedom.

I clamped down harder, twisting him to his side, pinning a wing beneath his thrashing body. ~Still yourself!~ I commanded, mental voice cold and low. Sly obeyed, mostly, keening below his breath with frustration.

Giving him a sharp shake, I dropped the half-Stygian and took my true form. Though I looked up at the young dragon now, everything about my posture spoke of dominance and strength. Sly rolled to his belly, kept his head down, then also took his true form.

"Understand this; my father and I are not thoughtless monsters. Destroying anything as beautiful as Yrta for no reason would be a crime to us. You obviously take your oath very seriously, but you have nothing to fear from us." I left the implication hang heavy; they had nothing to fear yet.

Sly had knelt while I spoke, head down and wings low. If he'd had a tail, I'm sure it would have curled tightly around his ankles. Blood dripped from many wounds, but he made no move to stanch them. He remained silent, though I felt his anger and a hint of fear.

And just a tiny bit of hope.

I held out a hand, though I kept my demeanor hard. "There is no reason we should be enemies."

Sly lifted his head slightly, daring to make eye contact. "We're not already targets?" His aura told me how scared he'd been behind the bravado.

Restraining my humor took millennia of practice. We'd frightened Six Winds! Their arrogance and youth masked a deep fear that we would hunt them down.

I let him stew as I checked in on my Marauders. No one was seriously hurt on either side. They'd fought to something like a standstill: El knelt before Yrta, sobbing at her song; Deandra had summoned wraiths and pinned someone down; Zhev lashed at Reinhart with sonic whips.

"Despite your obvious challenge," I finally said, "you are not targets. We just wanted to enjoy the show." I extended my hand further. "Can we call a truce?"

He rose with wings down and arms loose at his side. Sly approached slowly, eyes lowered, and I accepted his submission. The other dragon laid his head on my shoulder, and only then did I wrap my wings around him.

I held another hybrid, and realized we'd forged more than a truce.

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