"Come on, Night! Don't be a baby!" Esteria taunted her friend. She wanted to explore more of the Hidden World, see what else was out there, but Nightfall was being a wimp.
"But Estie, it could be dangerous," he said.
"Oh, shut up and stop being a muttonhead."
Nightfall gave Esteria one last pleading look, but she was determined, so he sighed. "Fine. Where to first, m'lady?"
Esteria smiled. "I want to go to the Snowy Peaks!"
"Alright, let's go then, my Princess."
"Stop calling me Princess! I told you! Just because I'm royal doesn't mean I want me and my best friend to be all awkward with each other." Esteria retorted.
"Right." Nightfall nodded.
Esteria smiled at him, then bounded away from him, laughing happily. "I'll beat you there, slowpoke!"
"Oh no you won't!" Nightfall smiled, flapping his white-tipped wings to follow the Princess.
The two raced all the way to the border of the Snowy Peaks, an area of the Hidden World coated in sparkling white snow. At the last second, Nightfall managed to bolt ahead of Esteria and plop into the snow.
"Beat ya'!" He teased.
"I went easy on you." Esteria insisted.
"Sure you did," Nightfall rolled his eyes. After a moment without an angry response, Nightfall looked at Esteria in confusion. She was staring at something, but when he followed her line of sight, he saw nothing but swirling snow. "Este?"
"Shut up." She hissed.
Nightfall cocked his head, blinking in confusion. "What's wrong?"
"Shh!" She whispered. Her pupils had narrowed to slits in her deep blue eyes, and the spines that ran along her back and sides were pushed out to their full length. She arched her back and snarled at nothing. "Get behind me," she hissed at Nightfall.
"Just do it, you muttonhead!" She insisted.
Nightfall hesitated, cocking his head further.
Why is she acting so-
Before he could finish his thought, a hiss came from within the roaring swirls of snow. Menacing black eyes appeared as a Snow Wraith landed behind Nightfall, grabbing him and digging her talons into his scales. He struggled, crying out in pain. Esteria snarled, swiftly biting at the Wraith's talons, causing her to drop Nightfall back to the snow.
"Don't you dare hurt him ever again." Esteria growled.
Soon enough, the first Wraith was joined by four others, all of whom wearing wicked smiles on their snouts.
"Este-" Nightfall began. She shot him a glare so harsh that he felt the rest of his words torn out of his throat.
"Leave." Esteria told the group of Wraiths. "As your Princess, I command you."
"Este, you don't need to go all battle-mode on them," Nightfall said. Whenever someone was in danger, Esteria had always felt that she needed to protect them, to a point where the dominant and aggressive side of her took over. This is what Nightfall called battle-mode.
Esteria didn't respond, instead snarling at the Wraiths in the most menacing way possible.
"Aw, the little Princess thinks she's better than us." One of the Snow Wraiths said tauntingly.
Esteria's spines gave off a faint yellow glow, the start of the Alpha Markings she's been developing since her birth as blood heir to the Alpha throne, currently held by King Asazin and Queen Twila.
"Leave. Now." The Princess growled.
"Hmm, I think not." The Wraith in the front responded. Before Nightfall could fully take in what this snowy-white dragon had said, Esteria had summoned a Plasma Blast and was lunging for the Wraith's neck.
The Snow Wraith gave a low growl, but before she could do anything much, Esteria swiftly flew by, slicing through the Wraith's scales with her razor-sharp side spines. Maroon blood stained the pureness of her scales, and the Wraith gagged out one last breath before collapsing to the snowy ground, lifeless.
"Who's next?" Esteria asked the other Wraiths. They all gawked at her, as if she had three heads or something. Nightfall could read their expressions, with the way their eyes questioned their own strength. They thought they were powerful, especially against adolescents, but seeing how easily Esteria had killed one of their own spooked them.
But they couldn't show weakness.
"Bring it, little one." Another Wraith said, stepping forward and shoving the corpse away from himself.
Esteria gave him a charming smile, the same smile that made Nightfall's heart flutter, before launching into talon-to-talon combat with the Wraiths.
It all happened so fast, Nightfall couldn't keep track of it all. All four of the Wraiths went at Esteria, but with her small size and her quick thinking, she dodged them, slicing their scales with her spines and her talons.
Nightfall could see exhaustion and doubt creeping onto Esteria's expression, but she was determined to defend him.
Within minutes, another Snow Wraith was dead and the others beat up and bloody. Esteria's markings were glowing fully by the end, a star illuminated around her right eye, and yellow along each row of spines and the upper tips of her wings. She brushed the blood off her talons and admired the glow, before gracefully landing before Nightfall and smiling as if she hadn't just brutally murdered two fully-grown Snow Wraiths.
It was late at night, and Lyra Stellar couldn't sleep, as usual. She walked along the paved path that went through the tree cover and behind the beach, when she saw a large mass of black.
She hurried through the white sand, worrying that she'd found a beached creature of some kind, but when she got close enough, she saw the shining blue eyes of Esteria the Night Fury,who was writhing in pain.
The sight took a second to register in Lyra's brain. She'd been seeing this stunning beast in her dreams nightly, but she always brushed it off.
Is she real? Lyra wondered. She kneeled beside Esteria's limp body, finding her jet-black scales stained with blood. She put her hand to Esteria's cold scales, and the dragon's breathing steadied.
"Shh," Lyra cooed, trying to soothe the creature. Carefully, Lyra stood up. "Come along, Este." She whispered, gesturing for Esteria to follow her into the tree cover.
The dragon obeyed, limping after Lyra. She hurriedly put a bed of leaves together, and Esteria collapsed onto it.
Trusting that the dragon would remain where Lyra had led her, she ran back to her home to grab the first aid kit that her father always kept handy. She grabbed several rolls of gauze for good measure, and ran back to Esteria's side.
She dabbed at the bloody wounds all over Esteria's scales, before carefully wrapping the most injured leg in gauze.
Right then, Esteria twitched and she seemed to be alert. Before Lyra could say anything, the dragon was on her feet, and Lyra could just see the grief and concern that filled her eyes.
"Esteria, what's-" Lyra began. Before she could finish, Esteria pulled Lyra onto her neck, the spines there retracting. Lyra held tightly to Esteria's scales, and the dragon flew off, flapping her powerful wings.
He can't be dead. He just can't. Esteria insisted. Maybe she was overreacting, maybe it was just her imagination.
Esteria had no memory of what had happened, how she got injured. The only thing she knew was that she needed to get to Nightfall.
He has to be alright.
He just has to.
Esteria couldn't know what exactly had happened, but a foreboding feeling washed over her body, and she knew something was wrong.
Esteria was born as the only daughter of King Asazin and Queen Twila of the Hidden World, and therefore raised to be a Queen. Her father had found that she had a special ability of sorts, where she could just feel when something was wrong within their Kingdom. He trained her, heightening her senses and making her a better dragon.
But he left her on that one horrible day, where the Sand Wraith hatchery collapsed in on itself, and Asazin had lost his life while saving the eggs within. Her mother had died years ago, too, shot by a human during a Hunting Expedition.
Esteria was alone then. She had no one, except Nightfall.
Nightfall had been there for her whenever she needed him most. He loyally comforted her, and helped her through everything. She couldn't live without him, it just wasn't possible.
A piece of her felt broken, with the idea that Nightfall could be gone forever. A gaping hole in her heart, like she would never be able to be happy again.
Not without him.
Esteria blinked back her cries of grief, forcing herself onward determinedly.
He has to be okay.
Esteria steadied herself as she flew over the endless ocean water, Lyra on her back. Lyra had never experienced anything like what she just had, riding a dragon through the morning mist, over the salty ocean. It was truly a magical thing.
Out of nowhere, Esteria dove directly downward, straight into the ocean. Somehow, Lyra hadn’t noticed the giant waterfall in the middle of the water, flowing down into some sort of cavernous world. It was beautiful, sparkling with multicolored stalagmites and glittering pools of perfectly transparent water.
Lyra took it all in, the breathtaking beauty. She relaxed, leaning down closer to Esteria’s scales.
She could feel the tension in Esteria’s muscles. The dragon was still terrified, of what? Lyra didn’t know.
Esteria was scanning the hidden caverns, as if searching for something.
“What is it, girl?” Lyra inquired. Esteria didn’t react, entranced by her search. Lyra could make out the look in her eyes, grief.
She was looking for someone, she realized. Someone who Esteria loved.
Lyra began scouring the corridors for any sign of a living soul, but it was empty. Suddenly, though, Esteria perked up.
Excitedly, Esteria hurried through a corridor and into a small cavern entrance that opened up to a large mass of crystals. Dragons filled the room, all with solemn expressions on their faces.
Something was very wrong.
Esteria landed on the ground, sliding Lyra off her neck. She shook herself out, before flying up to Serenity, who sat atop the tallest crystal.
This must be the new Main Cavern, Esteria realized.
“Esteria! Thank goodness, you’re alright!” Serenity said.
“Right, I’m fine, where is Nightfall?” There was a pause, silence filling the cavern. “Serenity? Where is he?”
“H-he,” Serenity choked on her words.
“Spit it out! Where in the name of all the gods is Nightfall?”
“He’s gone.” A voice said from behind Esteria. She turned around to see a shimmering golden-furred Woolly Howl, with rich brown eyes.
“G-gone?” Esteria questioned. The world was spinning, and suddenly Esteria felt as if she was underwater. Dragons were speaking, but she couldn’t understand them. She couldn’t see anything, she didn’t want to see anything.
I don’t want to see a world without Nightfall.
Esteria blinked rapidly, trying to decipher the thoughts that flooded her mind. Serenity was trying to comfort her, but all Esteria heard was yelling.
“SHUT UP!” She suddenly roared. She saw the pained looks on the dragons’ faces. “Shut up, and leave me alone.” Esteria muttered. She unfurled her wings and lifted off, flying away.
She didn’t know where she wanted to go, or what she was going to do. All she knew was that she needed to be away, from everyone.
In every face she looked at, she saw Nightfall’s emerald green eyes staring back at her. In every crystal, every pool, she saw Nightfall smiling at her.
He’s gone. He can’t be gone.
But he is.
Esteria allowed herself to fall to the ground, collapsing. She curled up, wrapping her tail and wings around herself. Sobs of overwhelming grief escaped her.
I have no one. I’m alone.
Without Nightfall, life would never be the same. He was the only one who had kept her in check, the one who lifted her out of the rocky pits of despair she often put herself in.
That stubborn muttonhead of a dragon had been there for her for her entire life. And now, he was gone.
No. A stubborn part of Esteria’s mind still denied everything. He’s fine. He’ll always be fine. I’m sure of it.
“My Queen,” A voice said, breaking Esteria out of her trance. The Woolly Howl from before padded up to her. “It’s Midas.”
Midas. Esteria remembered the name. This dragon was one of Kaiyō’s hunters, who had worked loyally for her father.
Esteria composed herself, standing upright and looking at the Howl. “What is it?”
Midas gave her a look of pity, and Esteria felt her heart wrenching. “Nothing, your Majesty. It’s just that… I’m sorry.”
Esteria cocked her head. “What do you mean?”
“I’m sorry… about Nightfall. About everything. I can;t imagine how hard this must be for you.” Midas said.
Esteria gulped. “May I ask what exactly happened?”
Midas looked her directly in the eyes. “He was leading the first group off, and there was this massive beast that came out of the ocean. There was a girl on its back, and she shot him. It hit him directly in the heart, and he fell towards the ocean. Before any of us could react, the giant beast took his body and disappeared into the sea.”
The words registered in Esteria’s mind. This is it? He’s really… gone?
“I’m sorry.” Midas awkwardly stepped towards her, wrapping her in his glittering wings. His hug was warm and comforting.
Esteria buried her face in his shoulders, allowing herself to truly grieve the loss of Nightfall.
Nightfall was completely numb, and unable to move. He felt dizzy, but that didn't keep him from glaring at his captor with loathing beyond what he had ever felt before.
She looked so innocent, stroking the scales of a beautiful Echoer who called himself Polarr. Her smile was charming, and ever so deceiving. The girl had the bodies of dragon corpses still lying in the chains and muzzles lining the walls beside him. In a large glass casing, the massive dragon she had referred to as the Shrike slept peacefully.
She kept talking to herself, about what she was going to do with the 'Alpha' to make herself the most powerful figure in the world, something about being a role-model.
She thinks I'm the Alpha. Nightfall realized. She's going to kill me, only to figure out she's got the wrong dragon.
Then she'll go after Esteria.
Nightfall was paralyzed thanks to the venom that his captor had shot him with. He wished with every fiber of his being that he could break out of these chains right this instant and get to Esteria. He needed her right now, he needed her smile, her confidence in him.
He needed to protect her. He would do anything to protect her. He didn't know what it was about her, but they were connected in a way that no dragon could ever break. Nightfall would never be able to live in a world without Esteria.
And Birdie... she was right there, hovering behind him when he was shot. He thought he was dead, that these would be his last moments. He thought that he'd never see Birdie again, or Esteria.
But he was alive, and they didn't know. They were alone and grieving, and he could do nothing.
It was all this girl's fault. She was torturing Nightfall in a way that made him just want to explode, to burst out of life for a second and take a breath. He wanted to kill her. He wanted to murder her and see her cry the way that she was making his loved ones cry.
But most of all, he wanted to be back with Esteria and Birdie. He needed them, he needed to protect them.
By the end of the day, he would be dead, and it would be his fault that soon enough Esteria would be taking his place in chains. And he wouldn't be able to do anything.
It's all my fault. I'm such an idiot.
I'm sorry, Esteria.
I love you.
Lyra gawked at the hundreds of dragons that were around her, things that she thought were only myths. It was something that she never would have expected to come of her life,seeing things like this.
Am I hallucinating? What is wrong with me?
Lyra wandered out of the cavern in search of Esteria, and found her snuggled up close to a glittering golden-colored dragon with fur-like scales along his body. Esteria looked absolutely heartbroken, by the way that she cried out.
Lyra hurried to Esteria's side, stroking her head softly. Something about the pain Lyra saw in Esteria just made her feel the desperate need to care, to help.
Esteria didn't fight Lyra's touch, and Lyra could feel the tension loosening. Lyra leaned in close to the dragon, whispering soft words in her ear to comfort her.
"Enveloped in an obsidian-black sky,
You feel like drowning in darkness.
Find the light,
It's shining just for you.
These stars begin to speckle the night,
Bringing light to the dark.
A spotlight to illuminate the path before you,
Carry on, know that the light is always there."
Esteria looked up at Lyra, eyes shimmering. Lyra could tell that her words had helped the dragon, just as they had helped her once upon a time.
Lyra repeated the poem again, stroking Esteria softly, until the dragon drifted off into a peaceful sleep.
Stop it. You're showing weakness. Wake up. Esteria inwardly reprimanded herself. She jolted upright, shaking off the grief that had overwhelmed her. Lyra lay peacefully on the ground, snoozing. Midas woke up groggily, blinking at Esteria.
"Are you alright?" He asked.
"Fine." Esteria snapped. She felt a flare of dominance rise up inside of her, but she shook it off. She walked away from Midas and Lyra.
Calm down, Esteria. Don't let the aggression take over.
Nightfall had said that to her, whenever she went overboard with her dominant side. No matter how hard she tried, though, she couldn't really control it. It was what happened whenever she was most insecure, whenever her vulnerable side cowered and she couldn't help but turn into someone else.
She tried her best to keep her calm at all times, but it was impossible. Especially now, when Nightfall...
When Nightfall was dead.
Esteria's breathing was shaky as it all came back to her. Stop it! She told herself again. He's gone, you need to let him go. Remembering him will only weaken you.
Let him go.
It sounded so simple, but it really wasn't. Esteria could never fully let go of Nightfall, it was as if he was a part of her. Woven into her soul, even. And now, with him gone, she had been torn to pieces.
Fate always makes the right choices, though it's not always going to appear this way. Trust it, Este.
Asazin's words then rang through her head.
It was fate. This was meant to happen all along. Let him go, trust fate, things will end up like they're supposed to. Esteria tried to convince herself of the truth of her father's words, but it just didn't feel right.
"Princess!" A voice called. Esteria was broken out of her trance, and found herself looking into the eyes of Eddy the Tide Glider.
"Eddy, hey." Esteria muttered.
"Is everything alright, Princess?" Eddy asked her, flapping to plop himself next to her.
"No." Esteria responded. "Nightfall is dead, and it's my fault. I shouldn't have left him."
"My dear Esteria, don't blame yourself in such a way. Maybe it's true, but you can't dwell on that! Plus, Nightfall served his duty. We don't need him anymore." Eddy said.
Esteria's gaze shot up, and she looked Eddy directly in the eyes. "Don't need him anymore? Are you serious?" She stood up, and her yellow glow appeared. "Don't you ever speak of Nightfall like that, ever again! I loved that dragon!"
There was a pause, as Esteria's own words sunk in. Did she love Nightfall?
Eddy's eyes were full of some kind of shock, and Esteria felt her heart wrench. She couldn't decipher her feelings then, but something about the look in Eddy's eyes made her feel... something. What was it?
"I-I'm sorry," Esteria said, looking down at her own talons. "I love only you, Eddy."
Esteria walked through corridors aimlessly, away from Eddy. Maybe she did love him, which she didn't know for sure, but right now love just couldn't surface when all she felt was unimaginable pain.
She felt alone, more than ever before. Nightfall was the only one who had truly shown her what it meant to be together, to have one another forever and always. Without him, she could never feel that again.
I don't ever want to feel like this again. Esteria decided. I can't bear anything more.
Everything hurt beyond physical pain, her head pounding with a pain like that of a million hammers thrashing themselves against her skull. She felt like curling up in a ball on the ground, she felt like dying.
Maybe... that's what's best.
Life would never be the same without Nightfall. She could never be happy again, not without his overconfidence in everything, without the light in his eyes that never faded.
She could never love again. Not truly. She couldn't allow herself to succumb to this pain any longer. She was alone, and it was best this way. Alone, with no one to hurt her.
Nightfall had left scars within Esteria, tearing at her very soul. Her heart was but a gaping hole in her chest. She was weak.
She couldn't be weak.
Esteria wandered into a cavern in the Shadows, only to be startled at the sound of a plasma blast hitting a rocky wall.
She saw Birdie, trembling and aggressively firing at the walls of her cavern.
Esteria saw her own pain reflected in the young dragon's eyes. Nightfall was all that she'd had left, much like Esteria. And she'd just watched her brother die before her eyes.
Esteria could feel the complete and utter heartbreak that must be overwhelming Birdie. She couldn't let herself watch Birdie go through this. The pain that ran through Esteria's veins was overwhelming, and she never wanted anyone else to have to feel it.
"Mommy?" Birdie's voice asked with a sniff.
Esteria felt a pang in her heart as the word rang through the cavern. Oh, Birdie.
"Mommy, I miss you so much," Birdie stumbled over to Esteria, nuzzling her. "And Daddy too. Is he here with you? I want to show him a trick Nightfall taught me."
"Bird," Esteria said softly. "It's Este."
"Este?" Birdie frowned, confusion clouding her face.
"Yeah," Esteria whispered, stroking Birdie's scales softly with her talons. "I'm right here."
"But Daybie and I... you left..." She said. "Is... is Nightie with you?"
Esteria's breathing grew shaky as she felt desperate rage and sadness bubbling up inside of her again. "Birdie, I'm fine and I'm back. I'll always come back to you." Esteria cooed, lying down and hugging Birdie close, wrapping the little dragon in her wings. "Nightie isn't here, I'm afraid. But I am, and I always will be."
"No." Birdie stood up abruptly. "You're gonna die, just like Nightie, and it'll be all my fault."
"Birdie, no, it doesn't work like that." Esteria stood up with her, deciding right then and there that for the rest of her life, her soul duty would be ensuring the safety and happiness of Birdie. "I'm not going to die, I'm going to stand right here next to you and help you, I'll keep you safe."
"But I don't want to be safe," Birdie responded. She hid behind her wings. "I wanna be with Nightfall."
"Trust me, Bird, I do too. I want to be with him more than anything in the world, but right now that can't happen." Esteria looked at Birdie, and smiled. "But you know what can? You can be with me, and I can stand by you. I will never leave your side, I will be here for you no matter what happens.
"Birdie, I want you to understand that even if I die, even if I have to leave you forever, I will never, ever stop looking out for you. I will never stop being right here, I will never truly leave you. You can trust me on this." Esteria spoke in a soft tone, telling only the truth. "Someday, everyone will leave you. But right now, we're all right here, and you have to live these moments to the fullest. You can't live on the idea of what the future could bring, or what could have been different all the time. Right now, in this very moment, you have so many dragons who will happily come stand next to you and help you through the hardest trials that are to come. Right now, I'm right here."
Birdie buried herself in Este's wings, snuggling closely to her. "I love you Este," she whispered.
"I love you too, Birdie." Esteria responded, holding Birdie close and allowing herself to truly smile for the first time in far too long.
Midas smiled, admiring the way Esteria had just healed something that seemed so impossible to heal. He hurried away from them, allowing the moment to thrive.
Midas' worry for Esteria had eased, seeing the smile that had looked so pure. He had gone looking for her, after she had walked away in such an aggressive way.
But she's alright. He told himself. Everything's alright.
Midas had admired Esteria from afar for a long time, but he respected and looked up to Nightfall, and seeing the way that he looked at Esteria, Midas knew that he couldn't love her.
When Midas saw the pain that she felt when she heard of Nightfall's end, though, he couldn't help but empathize with her heartbreak. He had to be there for her, he had to help her, like Nightfall had.
Being with her had made Midas realize how much Esteria cared for her Kingdom, and he had never been more in love. But he couldn't say anything, not while Esteria was like this. Maybe not ever, even. She had loved Nightfall, and he had loved her. He could see it in their eyes. Even with him gone, Esteria would never be able to let go of Nightfall.
Midas couldn't take his place. He could never live up to Nightfall. But what he could do, was help Esteria through the heart crushing pain she was feeling right now.
And that is exactly what I am going to do.
Esteria walked away from Birdie, her head still spinning. She was glad to have helped the little dragon, but she knew that she couldn't help herself.
She felt useless and alone. But she couldn't die yet, she needed to look out for Birdie. She was just stuck in a place where she could never be truly happy. She was stuck in a state of an aggressive, emotionless someone. She would never be the same.
Esteria felt drained, of energy, of emotions, of anything. She just felt like the shell of what used to be. All that remained was the urge to kill, the urge to murder.
At that moment, Lemonlime the Glidewing walked by, whistling. He spotted Esteria, and smiled at her. "Hey Este!"
Esteria gave a low growl in response, her pupils tiny slits in her eyes. She felt her wings twitch, and a small part of her tried to force her to calm down.
But it was of no use now.
"You aight?" Lemonlime asked.
Esteria shot him a glare so harsh that she sent him scrambling away from her.
"Yo, chill, what's up?" He asked, dusting himself off and standing up, approaching Esteria cautiously. "I heard about Night, I'm real sorry."
Esteria snarled angrily, and shot a small warning flame at Lemonlime's talons. He gave her a look of disbelief, but he hurried away nonetheless.
Stop it. Esteria shook herself, trying to calm down. Don't let yourself become like this. Don't let your own demons surface.
Esteria felt her pupils widening and slitting repeatedly as she tried to force herself to calm down, but she couldn't succeed.
Angrily, she shot a plasma blast at a wall and roared, her ears flaring up and her yellow markings glowing brightly.
Don't let your demons take over!
That was what Twila had told Esteria when she and her mother would be hunting together. She understood why this side of Esteria would surface, when all her worst fears would surface and her insecurity came to a level where she just allowed her 'demons' to take over.
"Este!" Birdie chirped trotting into the room.
Birdie, oh no. "Bird," Esteria managed through a growl. "I'm sorry, but you need to leave right now."
Birdie cocked her head,and Esteria felt a pang in her heart. She had promised that she would be here for Birdie whenever possible, but right now if Birdie got too close she might just end up dead.
Control it. Hide it.
"I-I will come check on you in a minute, I'm a bit busy. Shouldn't you be in lessons anyway?" She finished.
"Yeah, I guess." Birdie agreed sadly. "I'll talk to you later, then."
"Alright." Esteria smiled at her as the young Night Light fluttered away. The urge to attack her returned, but disgusted, Esteria forced it away.
Calm down. Don't let your demons win.
Phoebe growled at herself as she realized her mistake. Polarr had tried to warn her that she hadn't gotten the right dragon, but communicating with humans was much too difficult.
Polarr looked down on Nightfall, pitying him. He had been stolen from his own, from all of his loved ones, and now he was going to die.
Phoebe held a blade to Nightfall's neck, having decided that he was of no use to her.
She's going to kill him. Polarr realized sadly. For the first time in his life, he really wanted to save this dragon. He couldn't watch Phoebe kill another one of his own kind, a fellow dragon.
He was scared of Phoebe. He always had been. He'd watched her slaughter hundreds of dragons before his very eyes. He knew what she was capable of.
But maybe, just maybe, if he stood up to her, things could change. Polarr could help, if only in a small way.
He let out a loud roar, and he knocked Phoebe aside and stood in front of Nightfall, wings spread wide.
"Polarr!" Phoebe shouted. She flung her knife at him, and it embedded itself in his chest. Polarr grunted, but held strong. Blood seeped out of the fresh cut, staining his scales.
While Phoebe stood, flustered, Polarr tore at Nightfall's chains, releasing him. With his long talon, he tore the muzzle off, and Nightfall nodded at him with extreme gratitude.
Polarr hurriedly lifted Nightfall onto his back, carrying him since the Night Light was still somewhat paralyzed. Polarr knocked Phoebe to the ground again, flapping his gargantuan wings and heading off.
To the Hidden World we go.
Nightfall was still dazed from what had just happened. Polarr had saved him. In that moment, Nightfall thought he was going to die. He thought that he was taking his last breath, he thought he'd never see Esteria or Birdie or anyone ever again.
But Polarr had saved him. Nightfall was alive because of this Echoer who only minutes ago had been undyingly loyal to the human who had captured him.
For this, Nightfall would be forever grateful. He wanted more than anything to leap off of Polarr's back and fly free, all the way to Esteria's side. But thanks to the venom that still ran through him, he couldn't move his wings.
Polarr flew for more than an hour before finally diving into the Hidden World. Nightfall had a little bit of his senses returning, and he carefully slid off of Polarr's back and stumbled down a corridor to find Esteria blasting a rocky wall, that was now black and charred with scratch marks all over it. Her pupils were slits in her gleaming blue eyes, and she angrily growled under her breath.
Nightfall took a moment to look at her, realizing how much he had missed her. She looked beautiful, even in this state where she was scratched and bleeding.
But it wasn't her outer beauty that made Nightfall's heart flutter. What he missed most was Esteria's personality, how she talked to him, how she comforted him.
I love you, darnit.
"Este?" a weak voice said from behind Esteria. Shakily, she turned around, and found herself looking into a pair of emerald green eyes that looked identical to Nightfall's. She shook her head, as if to clear it, and turned back around.
"Leave me alone." She muttered. "I can't talk right now."
"E-Este," the voice repeated. "It's Nightfall."
Esteria perked up, her heart pounding, and she turned again to see the black and white dragon that stood before her. Her vision was blurry, but she could make out the shape of her best friend.
Nightfall? Could it be? She stepped closer, still shaking, and looked into his eyes. They looked like his eyes.
Esteria closed her own eyes, her mind drifting to images of her and Nightfall frolicking through the Hidden World together. She missed him, far too much. She grieved him, she'd tried to let him go, but she couldn't.
It was like he was a part of her. A part of her that would remain forever. I part that she loved.
I think... I think I love him.
"You idiot!" She screamed suddenly, blasting a flame over Nightfall's head. "I thought you'd DIED! I hate you! I'm going to kill you!"
Nightfall smiled at her weakly, and she could feel herself crying out in joy. It was him. It was really Nightfall.
She leaped into his arms, hugging him close. "I thought I'd never see you again," she cried, burying her face in his scales. "I-I thought-"
"Shh," he cooed. "It's alright. I'm here now."
Esteria smacked him upside the head with her talons, shoving him off of her. "I hate you." She said again, but the joy-filled smile on her snout said otherwise.
Nightfall laughed. "I love you too."
Lyra yawned and sat up, rubbing where her arm had been pressed against the uncomfortable rocky ground.
She realized that she'd overslept, and a rush of panic bubbled up inside of her as she realized how worried her family must be. She leapt to her feet, running through corridors to search for Esteria, the only dragon who could bring her home...
...only to find herself running smack into the chest of a large red dragon. She backed away, heart pounding.
The dragon's eyes narrowed into slits, its chest rising and falling rhythmically as it stared at her.
Lyra squeaked and back away, mumbling an apology and praying that the dragon would back away.
The dragon leaned forward, smoke starting to curl from its mouth.
Lyra took another step back, debating whether or not to run or to freeze. "Calm, bud..." She whimpered, stumbling another few steps backwards.
The words seemed to enrage the dragon even more. It shot blast at her feet, the fire bouncing off the ground in different directions, illuminating the corridor.
Lyra's eyes widened, and she backed away, panic bubbling up inside of her. She needed Esteria, now.
Where is she when you need her?
The Razor Fury's next blast, which would have hit Lyra point blank, was cut off by Esteria walking side-by-side with a black and white dragon, who looked similar to her, but with emerald green eyes and a single spine running along his back. Esteria looked happy, even ecstatic, much unlike the last time Lyra had seen her, where she was in the deepest depths of despair.
Lyra smiled and ran to Esteria's side, stroking her pristine, sparkling scales, grateful to be away from the razor-sharp looking dragon.
Esteria growled at Maroon softly, and the dragon seemed to understand, backing down.
Lyra sighed in relief, and gave Esteria a nod of thanks. Then she looked at the dragon next to her, who limped weakly. She walked over to him, placing her hand gently on the side of his neck.
"Nightfall." She said. She didn't know how exactly she knew the dragon's name, but somehow, she did. She could almost feel the pain radiating from him. He needed help. "Hey, let's get you some care." She stepped forward, following her gut through the corridors. Hesitantly, Nightfall followed her.
Lyra found a small cavern, and within, there sat a little rabbit-like creature with vibrant, tropical colors. Its long tail ended with a stinger, but it didn't look menacing like a scorpion's. The flower-petal like scales around it just softened the look.
The little dragon opened its small wings, fluttering over to Nightfall. She let out a squeak, and another little colorful dragon joined her. Lyra trusted the dragons to take care of him, so she waved goodbye and walked away.
She'd nearly forgotten how badly she needed to go home.
The Healing Rimscale siblings, Calypso and Calysto, flitted around Nightfall, poking at the smallest wounds.
"He'll need ointment here," Calypso said.
"Indeed indeed indeed." Calysto agreed, running his talons through an oily ointment that had gathered on a crystal. He rubbed it on one of Nightfall's small cuts, and almost immediately, the stinging faded.
"I hear the Queen's going on a date tonight, with a tide glider." Calypso whispered quite loudly.
"Indeed indeed indeed!" Calysto nodded. "A King!"
Nightfall flinched. Esteria, on a date with a tide glider?
He gritted his teeth. Eddy couldn't end up as the King. As far as Nightfall knew, Eddy would just set the whole kingdom on fire and run away cackling.
Something tickled in Nightfall's gut. Something wasn't right. He needed to follow them...
Esteria would hate him forever if he spied on her during a date. But he couldn't bear being oblivious to whatever Eddy could be doing to Esteria.
The dragon he'd known as a hatchling. The dragon he'd protect with his life. The dragon he would do anything for. The dragon he loved.
Stop being so selfish, Nightfall reprimanded himself. If Esteria is happy with Eddy, leave them be. You want her to be happy.
But she couldn't be happy with Eddy. Something about the tide glider wasn't right. He didn't have any kind of good intentions.
I'm going to follow her, He realized. My gut is too stubborn to let me stay here without loads of guilt.
"-Wouldn't you agree, mister?" Calypso asked Nightfall. He stared at her blankly. "He wasn't listening," she hissed to her brother.
"Indeed indeed indeed." Calysto responded solemnly.
"Oookay then. I think I'm good enough to go now... um, see you around."
"Indeed indeed in-"
Nightfall dove out of the cavern before he could hear Calysto finish his 'catchphrase.'
Nightfall was being as quiet as possible as he followed Eddy and Esteria. They glided together towards a secluded cliff edge, overlooking a large pool of sparkling water. He resisted the urge to snarl at Eddy and shove him away from Esteria.
They're too close. He thought angrily.
The couple settled down in the tall grass near the edge of the cliff, snuggling up to each other. Nightfall hid himself behind a boulder to watch.
"I love you, Esteria." Eddy whispered. Nightfall nearly gagged.
Esteria nuzzled him. "I love you too."
But Nightfall knew better.
He could see the doubt in her eyes. She didn't love this dragon. She couldn't love this dragon.
Eddy continued on, being utterly suave. "You look stunning, love."
Esteria was obviously flustered.
"You impress me, with how well you handle the responsibility of being the lone ruler of the Hidden World. It must be exhausting."
"It can be," Esteria agreed.
"Maybe... it could be easier if you had someone to rule alongside you."
Esteria blinked, being the oblivious dragon she was. "I mean, yeah, I guess."
"Someone you trust... someone you," He inched closer to her. "Love."
Nightfall could see when it dawned on her, what he was hinting at. He could see her panic.
"Uh... yeah, I mean..."
"So if anything tragic were to happen, you could trust the kingdom in their talons." He leaned down, and pulled up a purple flower. He held it in his mouth, and he leaned close to her, offering it up.
Cautiously, Esteria leaned in to take it.
And that's when Eddy attacked.
He flapped his wings wildly, knocking Esteria down and pinning her.
"It would be the smart thing to do. So when there's a tragic accident and the kingdom's Queen is gone, they will entrust it in the talons of the dragon she'd proposed to. Her betrothed."
Esteria's terror radiated through the air, and Nightfall snarled softly. Quietly, he crept up behind Eddy, so as not to draw attention to himself.
"Eddy, please," Esteria pleaded. "Why are you doing this? I thought you loved me..."
"I never loved you. No one could possibly love someone as worthless as yourself. You don't deserve it, you never did. And now, you never will. Goodbye, my Queen."
"I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss her, my lord." Nightfall said in a mocking tone. Eddy whirled around to face him.
"What are you doing here?"
"Saving my Queen, as any dragon would do, if they were in their right mind."
Eddy cleared his throat. "I'm afraid I cannot let you do that. You've just gotten yourself involved, so now there will have been two tragic deaths. The brave Night Light rushing in to save his Queen, only to lose is life in the process..."
Nightfall only smirked. "And how do you plan to achieve that?"
"Oh, you shouldn't worry about that, Nightfall."
"Shouldn't I?" Before Eddy could make a move, Nightfall outstretched his talons and slashed at the Tide Glider's scales. Eddy grunted, then lunged at Nightfall, forcing him to the cliff's edge.
Nightfall heard the crash of the waves far below. His mind flashed through the idea of his mother's screams, his father's cries, the bubbles that rose to the surface when his last breath was released.
Nightfall needed to be strong. He couldn't let a little bit of water scare him. He fought back, sending Eddy tumbling back into the tall grass.
"Night, I-" Esteria said in a small voice.
"Don't." Nightfall instructed firmly. "Stay where you are, don't move."
Eddy tried to get at Nightfall again, slicing through his scales with the sharp talon on his wing. Nightfall shook off the pain, pulling out every fiber of strength he had in him.
For the kingdom.
He pinned Eddy down, pressing his talons to the Tide Glider's throat. "I knew something was wrong with you from the start, Eddy. I couldn't trust you. With her, or with anyone. But yet, I wanted Esteria to be happy. If she wanted to fall in love, I needed to let her. I'd do anything for her. I'd die a thousand deaths if it meant her safety. I'd kill, I'd save, I'd die again and again, all because I am loyal, and I care.
"Then there's you, the talent-less Tide Glider. Unless you can count suaveness as your worth, you knew you could never amount to what you dreamed of. You so selfishly wanted to rule the kingdom, and you'd do anything to get there, so long as you didn't get hurt, right?
"I can't believe you thought for a minute that you could hurt the most amazing dragon I have ever met. Do you realize that even if I'd have died, you never could have gotten away with it? 'Tragic accident,' what nonsense."
Eddy struggled, not bothering to respond.
"Don't even try to move, you snake."
Eddy glared daggers at him. "I hate you."
"Right back at'cha, my lord." Nightfall wrapped his talons around Eddy's neck, using all of his strength to break it. With a satisfying snap, Eddy's life was over.
Silence ensued for several long moments, before Esteria found her voice.
"You..." She struggled to her feet, stumbling over to the body. "You killed him."
"I did it for you, Esteria. If I hadn't, he would have found some way to kill you and get the kingdom to himself." Nightfall explained reasonably.
Esteria shook her head. "But... he..."
"Come walk with me, Este. Let's talk you through this." Nightfall smiled at her sweetly.
Nightfall shoved the corpse over the cliff edge, listening for the splash as it hit the water. Then he walked away, whistling a tune.
What the heck just happened.
Esteria couldn't think straight.
Eddy was dead.
Well, to be fair, he had tried to kill her first, but still.
A life was lost.
Nightfall had murdered him.
The scene replayed in her mind. The way Nightfall looked Eddy in the eyes, a thirst for blood in his gaze. That wasn't the Nightfall she knew- no, he'd found a savage spirit inside of him and used it to protect her.
Esteria was alive because of him.
But Eddy was dead.
"Look," Nightfall said, nudging Esteria with his wing. "I know it's a lot to think about. But I want you to realize that you never really loved him. You wanted to, but you didn't. You need to let go of that."
Esteria looked at him like he had three very repulsive heads.
Nightfall sighed. "I'm sorry, okay? I am. Something just... took over. I had to do it."
"But why?" Esteria inquired, genuinely curious.
"Because..." He hesitated. "Because I love you."
Esteria sucked in a breath.
"I've loved you for a long time, Este. I love everything about you. I'd do anything for you. When I saw the way he looked at you, with the desire to kill, I couldn't let him make another move. I couldn't look him in the eyes and not see a murderer. The way he scared you... the terror that you so obviously felt... it brought out a part of me that I didn't know I had."
Esteria stared at him for a moment. Had he really just confessed his love after murdering someone?
"I loved Eddy!" She called out. "I did! Sure, he didn't have good intentions, but that doesn't give you the right to kill him! You're just as bad as he was." She huffed, turning away.
"Este," Nightfall said, his voice shaking.
"You're nothing but a selfish jerk. You're no better than he ever was. I hate you." She looked him in the eye one more time, glaring harshly. "I really, really hate you."
With that, she blasted a ball of plasma flame and flew through it, fading into invisibility. She didn't want him following her.
She flew far, far away from him, trying to hold in her sobs. She didn't make it far, before she collapsed against a wall, curled up into a ball, and cried her soul out.