Kyrik disliked forests, but not for the reason many would assume.
It wasn't the wildlife, as the sounds of nature provided excellent background noise for his overreacting mind. From the sharp cry of a creature in the tall trees above to tiny chirps in the bushes to the side, being outside the city always lent itself to new experiences. Gentle waves splashed onto the sandy beaches nearby, the salty smell of the ocean prevalent.
The air was neither cool nor warm, being nearly perfect despite it being dead of night on this corner of the world. With the stars out, the sky was full of blues and blacks with a hint of white and purple. Unfortunately, the twin moons - Suri and Sacha - did not accompany the stars.
No, what bothered Kyrik was how sensitive his scales were against the environment. It was either itchy or ticklish, both always causing endless distraction. It was why he never wore any form of jewelry outside his necklace, which he was forced to get used to. The mask he wore never once bothered, strangely.
"How are you coping?" Methir asked teasingly when he started to scratch at his wrists.
"Why did I agree to come?" Kyrik mumbled.
"I don't know, but I'm happy you did." Methir patted his head as she walked past, carrying a small container. Of all the magical spells they could cast, of all the technology, it was still bizarre to be using a woven basket.
"You have a suit, though." Kyrik pointed out. "I don't have anything."
"I need the suit, muffin. You can get some clothing, but you chose not to time and time again."
"Besides, being stuck in a city all day every day isn't good. It's nice to be in an untouched island."
"Considering how close we are to abysean territory, it wouldn't surprise me if they came here eventually." Kyrik shrugged.
"Perhaps, but they're not as destructive as you may think." Methir bent down near a bush and grabbed a blue-white berry in the shape of a tear; a Ghost Tear. "They revere life despite their ruthlessness in combat. I've never been inside their walls, but I've spoken to them a few times."
"Could've fooled me." Kyrik shrugged. "Not my place to judge, though; would really like to sit down with one."
"I'm not so sure they have the temperament for your questions, but it would be amusing to watch." Methir laughed. "Go look for more Ghost Tears, I'm almost done with this one."
Kyrik did so, taking the environment in once more. The unnamed isle they stood upon was one of many near the abysean continent of Lishan, toward the middle of it. The landmass itself was far too small to make proper settlements but they could be used as advanced military bases. Then again, this area was ravaged by powerful monsoons on a bi-monthly basis.
Crossing his path were a row of strange, avian-like creatures Kyrik hadn't seen before on his times here. Bright red and yellow with purple eyes, they stared cautiously as they - for some reason - waddled on their two legs rather than flying. They didn't look flightless from the wingspan. So why did they walk?
Nature was confusing.
Ghost Tears were nowhere in sight. Did those avians eat them? No way to tell, but they were usually abundant. Maybe the recent monsoon swept them out to sea.
The frustration Kyrik felt at the lack of finding bled with the lingering anger about being shoved to the side. His cheeks puffed again at the thought. Age was so stupid a reason, as Kyrik had been around bodies and death ever since he obtained these powers. Jirmen was there for ninety percent of those times! Why now?
Another dark suggestion entered his mind. It said to investigate further, against the archmage's wishes. The other side of Kyrik was unable to articulate its intentions, but the imagery of the bone entered his mind. There was something suspicious about the bone, something they hadn't noticed, but it was lost in translation.
"You know that pouting isn't going to make them change their mind." Methir caught up to him.
"I don't understand why they suddenly lock off ages, Methir." Kyrik's growing frown intensified. "I also don't understand why you and Jirmen want me to keep this hidden from at least the Warlocks. I can help!"
The black fins on Methir's head raised slightly alongside her comforting smile. "I know. But you need to understand that in a situation like this, someone may exploit you. Especially with your naivety."
"I'm not naïve."
"Until last week, you didn't know what-"
An emerald light crossed the sky above out of nowhere. Like a streaking comet, it rocketed at them before they had time to react, flying above their heads and crashing into the ground with enough force to topple. Dirt and debris flung into the air as trees were thrown from their rooting like a hatchling playing with a toy.
"Are you alright?" Methir called, Kyrik barely able to hear through the ringing in his ears.
Kyrik didn't answer, too busy trying to figure out what in the world happened. The comet not only created a deep hole, but a path leading to it that cut through the ground like a knife. Glowing green liquid stained the ground like blood. A comet that bled?
Ignoring Methir's word of caution, his curiosity blocked all potential warning as he approached. The glow of the comet slowly dimmed, taking shape of something. His protofeathers stood rigid as he detected life from it; faint, but there. A living comet? Kyrik had seen many strange things, but this was up there already.
"Is that...a dragon?" Methir questioned.
Sure enough, the shape it was taking had four limbs, a tail, and a face not dissimilar in appearance to Kyrik's. Much sharper, almost like a shriker's but beak-like as well. The glow faded alongside Kyrik's understanding of the universe. For the next few seconds, all Kyrik did was stare. What else could he do?
The being was draconic, but unlike any Kyrik ever saw. Scales black as the depths of space and covered in light green runes. Horn, branchy and long almost akin to knife blades at the end. Bioluminescent barbs ran from the head to middle neck. Translucent green wings, bigger than the body, the fingers ending in sharp ends.
But the most peculiar part about this dragon was the tail end. Wrapped by vine-like scales was an orb, cracked and sparking dimly. Kyrik felt a pang of familiarity with it despite the obvious differences.
"Kyrik, open a portal." Methir instructed. "We need to get her to Falmari, now."
The dragon was female? How did Methir tell in the dark? Regardless, he nodded and began to cast a portal.
Portals were different than conjuring, despite what many uninitiated may think. He'd heard the misinformed say it was like creating an opening, and while they weren't wrong, it was a tad more complex yet simple. Kyrik vibrated the arcane around them, condensing it into one area before him. With his mind, he thought of the infirmary in Falmari, reaching out with his senses. Although distant, Kyrik still recognized the energies, and was able to tether the runes together to create a portal.
Unlike traditional ones, which that would be the process of, Kyrik had another way to speed up the spell. The reaper powers granted him one powerful boon; the ability to slip between the veil of life and death to instantaneously create a rift. By doing so, the portals were nigh untraceable and cost very little on his will.
Methir levitated the dragon's body as Kyrik finished his portal, taking the shape of a dark green rift in the air. Without hesitation, he dove through, and he was in the infirmary not one second later. Another benefit was the lack of side-effects, where sometimes Kyrik would get woozy or unbalanced if he jumped right in.
Luckily, he didn't accidentally open the portal above something valuable again. Instead, he was in the middle of a large, white room with doors leading to smaller ones. Doctors and nurses nearby nearly dropped their documents and other paperwork at the sight of Kyrik. Taking in the environment quickly, he saw it was fairly dead; this dragon would get the most help at this time of day!
"Kyrik, why must you always open a portal instead of walking in?" The head nurse, a gryphon named Ni'za, groaned.
Gryphons were another major race, the fourth Kyrik encountered. Like dragons, they walked on all fours and were born with great wings to touch the sky. Unlike them, feathers replaced scales, the longest being on their whip-like tails. Beaks instead of muzzles, sharp enough to crack some objects with a swift peck. What they lacked in natural defenses, the beak and sharp talons made them a terror to be on the defensive with.
The nurse quickly silenced herself when Methir came through with the dragon. With speed that betrayed her age, she opened a curtain that hid a cot for their injured guest. At the snap of her whip-like tail, other nurses stopped what they were doing to come.
"Where did you find her?" Ni'za asked. Kyrik briefly filled her in. "She what?"
"Fell from the skies." Methir stepped in.
"Are you sure we should be treating her after the last time something fell from the sky?"
"Considering she didn't detonate a landmass and is currently unconscious, I think it's fair to say she's nowhere near as dangerous as Ephiral." Kyrik scowled. "At the very least, we should talk to her."
"I suppose you have a point." Ni'Za sighed. "I'm not sure the extent of her injuries, so I won't keep you here. However, you'd better be available, and I mean the both of you."
"Of course!" Kyrik nodded.
"No, I'll stay." Methir eyed the fallen dragon. "I'm surprised you aren't either, Kyrik."
"If I stay, I'll get in the way, and I'm aware enough to realize this." Kyrik fidgeted.
"Aw, you do have awareness!" Methir giggled. "Although, where will you go?"
"I need to return to my study. Make sure my SoulSaver is able to record today."
Methir nodded, satisfied. With one lingering glance at the dragon, Kyrik stifled his curiosity and darted out the doors.
He knew what he had to do, and Methir would no doubt alert Jirmen of his plan. Surprise was the only way to go about this. Especially if Jirmen tried to talk him down again.
The detention center was the only logical place to go. It hadn't been long since he and Methir took off, so no suspects could've been collected and interrogated yet. Not unless minds could be read.
The building was a place Kyrik tended to avoid, the negative energy giving a repulsive aura. Featureless and made of dull grey material, it housed rogue magi and other magical criminals. For depraved murderers and others of their ilk, they were contained out of the city. Still, with so many in one location, Kyrik felt their life force and how deep their darkness - for lack of better term - ran.
Yet here he was, about to ambush the archmage right in front of it.
Predictably, he arrived within minutes on its stony steps, unable to teleport directly inside from his own wards. From the shadows, Kyrik quietly moved toward Jirmen until he was at the bottom of the stairs.
"Why are you going in there personally?" Kyrik asked. Jirmen's grip on his staff tightened at his voice.
"I thought I told you to stay out of this, Kyrik." Jirmen answered wearily. "As for why, I will be asking a few questions."
Kyrik found himself bristling with a twinge of anger. Once again, Jirmen was talking down to him as if he were no more than ten. The slits in his eyes narrowed as he ascended a step.
"I'm death, Jirmen." Kyrik said lowly, as to not alert anyone potentially listening. "I know you're going in there to interrogate."
One of Jirmen's ears twitched. "Then why did you ask me?"
"Because I wanted to see if you'd continue lying to me." Kyrik ascended another step. "I'm tired of it. I'm not that same whelp you met back then. I'm attracted to death; it's part of who I am, and if you keep me out, he will launch his own investigation."
Jirmen paused, staring down at Kyrik. He saw the wheels turning in the lycon's head, all but ready to say no regardless of Kyrik's truth.
With a heavy sigh, he relented. "I know." He admitted. "I suppose this will work out, as I've been meaning to teach you something. However," Jirmen gave Kyrik an authoritarian stare, "if I tell you to leave, you will do so without question. Understand?"