A/N: This story wouldn't be what it is today without the help of my friends and fellow writers: RamblingRobin, Kat, Timothy M., Hanna, Brayon, Toma, and Rainbow Cat. Every single one of you has my sincerest gratitude. My words can't express that enough! Thank you.
Prologue- Owin's Gone
I felt a fluttering of unease in my stomach at the silence that greeted me. If my brother wasn't in our shared room, then where in the Azure was he? My fingers fidgeted as I scanned the room, and my gaze swept past something on my bed. The vibrant gold swirls of Owin's stationery were obscured beneath the haphazard markings he dared to call script.
My dearest Rhy-Fry,
I'm sorry. I won't sit still and wait for the shackles of the impending Troth Season to affix me to an Alpha. Why would I allow a stranger to dictate my life? Aren't our parents bad enough? If they want to raise their status so badly, then they're welcome to mate him instead!
The sheet in my hands quivered as I inhaled. What little hope I had of finding him crumbled away like the pieces of a dried-out leaf in autumn within a fisted hand. My brother hadn't been hiding anywhere; he had downright left. Owin was really gone! The panic had me feeling short of breath. Calm down, I thought to myself. He wouldn't want me to hyperventilate. I dropped my head back against the wall. When had I sat down on the mattress?
The shimmering of the opalescent seashells that studded our ceiling drew and held my attention for a brief moment. Owin and I had pasted them ourselves with much difficulty when we were mere whelps. We told each other tales of sea serpents and rambunctious squills until we managed to attach them securely. The memory of our laughter that day made me smile. The mood boost encouraged me to keep reading.
I can't take the pressure of being the 'heir of the Edesias' anymore. Aren't you sick of the way they've treated us both? I wish you'd had taken me seriously when I asked you to join me. It's not too late.
Remorse and guilt built up inside me. Owin was right. I thought he was sparking up a creative prank when he mentioned leaving a few days ago. My brother was the bravest of all the Edesias. I found it hard to wrap my head around the fact that he ran away. But wasn't it common to feel scared before becoming bound to someone else?
Should you change your mind, you already have the tool to find me. Otherwise, I ask that you buy me enough time to start forging a life of my own away from all of THEM.
"Tool? What's he talking about?" I mused aloud.
The two of us weren't really twins. We only delighted in the fact that we had the same height and build even though we hatched five years apart. But, the delight I usually felt whenever we referred to one another as our childhood nicknames had been firmly pinned down by anxiety.
"Azure above!" I hissed when I finally noticed the book.
Trembling fingers slid on the rough, coral-hued cloth of the diary that had been my birthday gift to him. Though I thought it too stupid a gift for a maturing wyvern, Owin had treasured it. He even left a clue about his location inside it.
Such a grand escape meant that my brother needed the time away to think. Usually such a friendly and social person, it indicated just how afraid he was. I needed time to grasp that. A fearful Owin? But, he had always been the stronger one! He had protected me and inspired me for nearly thirty years.
No, it didn't matter. I had no doubt Owin would tell me of his worries, eventually. Right then, I needed to help him.
"Rutting riots!" I huffed, my voice cracking.
Worse yet, how was I going to explain this to our parents?
"You are going to keep him occupied."
My parents received an abridged version of my brother's escape. Owin was the "golden son," yet I observed no fretting over his wellbeing. In contrast, my concern over him weighed heavily within my heart. As much as I wanted my sibling to be back home in one piece, the omega valued his freedom over safety. At least, that's what I believed.
"K-keep who occupied?" I questioned, having lost track of the conversation.
"Vis Sepherus Vesper!" She hissed back in reply, swinging one of her squill arms down in an arc. "Have you any idea of how many wyverns would kill to be Bound to a Vesper? I suppose we're going to have to go through with our plans earlier than usual."
Her dress swished around skinny legs on every turn of the heel as she paced. I allowed myself to become distracted by the movement instead of letting those words sink in. But, the gruff sound of my father clearing his throat reminded me of the situation at hand.
"You will do as your mother says," he commanded in a deceptively steady voice. The glare he sent my way was anything but calm. "The best you can do for your brother and your family right now is to keep Sepherus distracted while we search for Owin."
"Exactly," mother readily agreed. For a brief moment, her pupils became slitted, just as they were in her winged form. Both my parents usually displayed flawless control over both their forms. To see her lose the slightest amount of control was frightening to me. "And, while you're at it, you can keep all of those conniving, young omegas from latching onto him before our Owin is properly Bound!"
I couldn't tell which of the two was more worried about the family's status. They didn't care about Owin other than what his bond to Vis Sepherus could bring to their prestige. The fear inside me shifted as a spark of anger took its place. They were treating my brother as a pawn.
"I don't like the idea of deceiving Vis Sepherus," the words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. My parents wanted my brother's Intended to remain in the dark. If he were anything other than a decent person, I wouldn't feel as awful for having to deceive him. "Shouldn't he know? Wouldn't he want to help look for Owin?"
My father stood up to his full height. Throughout my childhood, Oswirth Edesia had always been impossibly massive in both his forms. I felt no bigger than a whelp then and there, shrinking away from him in reflex. Sometimes he terrified me more than the thought of pain itself...or, worse, my fear of flying.
"You will do as we say," that time, his voice was loud enough to be a bellow. "Pack enough clothes to last you until the Troth Season. We will find your wayward brother by then. Go. Now."
His tone of voice left no room for argument. My trembling resumed, and I forced myself to move. A part of me didn't want to obey. A larger part of me wished to have left with Owin. Had he flown far? Would I be able to follow him on foot?
I made it to the hallway entrance when my father's words once again stopped me in my tracks.
"And Rhyad," the head of the Edesias insisted. "Don't you dare disappoint us again. You've brought more than enough shame onto our family name."
Had I turned around, I'd have seen the same expression on their faces as always. That mixture of disgust and disappointment never failed to chip away at my confidence throughout the years. I was afraid that seeing their faces in that state would send me into a spiraling fit of sadness, so I didn't turn around.
Owin was no longer around to help keep me out of the grip of downtrodden emotions. Crawling out of depression wasn't difficult in the past, but that was only because the omega had been a bright light in my life...and it was my own fault that he seemed to have forgotten that. Had I asked him to stay, he surely would have.
I was such an idiot for not having believed him in his moment of need.
One bag for clothes and the other for books, I thought as I sorted my belongings. Owin's letter was folded and tucked into the diary, which still made me nervous about having it in my hands. Diaries were private possessions. To read it felt like an invasion of privacy, one that I wasn't ready to make just then. Our parents had already sent word to extended family members in other lands to be on the lookout for the omega. I didn't want to give them any help with that. So, even though I was the only one who could read my brother's script, the diary and his letter were coming with me.
If granting Owin more time meant that I had to distract Vis Sepherus, as my parents so desperately wished, then it was what I was going to do.