It was an understatement to say he was irritable. Each passing day, each moment, each second meant she was at risk. He needed to leave already, Verrine was not prepared for the world outside.
For the last few weeks, he had spent all his waking hours setting his Familial and Academic affairs in order.
The City was letting him leave on the grounds of research. They would not allow him outside the walls otherwise. He was going to research more on Land Born, he had told them. He scoffed at the thought as he picked up a worn book. The pages were yellowed, and to anyone else it would have looked empty. But, to him, the letters were made of shadow and danced across the cover. He tucked the book into his chest pocket, near his heart. It was the one family possession his father was letting him take.
He had only been approved for leave today. That meant, it was now solidifying his deal with his father.
He was to temporarily relinquishing his family name. He was no longer Elric Finch, but instead Elric the Scholar. His father was a fair man, as long as their secret was not found out, he would be allowed to return to their name.
As for taking Scholar as his temporary last name, he was lucky to apply for membership with the United Scholars of Origoxi. Origoxi, being the land of which they all dwelled. He now had free access to the Four Kingdoms, but not the Land of Moon. The Land of Moon was exclusive to those who cared for, were favored, or marked by Dragons. There was no land harder to get into, as it was surrounded by impassable mountains.
He tightened the strap of his bag.
Which led him to his next task.
Gain the favor of a Dragon.
Which meant, entering the unfavorable part of the City.
He exited his room, and in the hallway his father stood. His eyes were dark, shadowed despite the sunlight that filtered through the window.
“I do not know if this is for the best.” His father spoke, tone low. “I love Verrine as well, but this puts more than our Family at risk.” They had had this conversation too many times.
“Perhaps… If you had allowed me to court Verrine when we were of age, things would be different.” He tried to keep his tone even, but the anger seeped into his words. His father’s face twisted in pain, and he immediately regretted it. It was not his father’s fault, nor his. They were both trying to protect her at the time.
“Elric.” His father said as he placed a hand on his shoulder. “Be safe.” He paused. “Do not let anyone find out-even Verrine.” His tone was hushed, and pained. “I love you.” He pulled him into a hug, his arms quivering slightly. It was unclear if it was from the tears, or from fear. He was risking a lot by leaving the City.
He wrapped his arms around his father, retuning the hug. When was the last time they hugged? Too long ago. “I love you too, Father.” He said, releasing him. “I will return; with Verrine.” He gave him a small smile, before brushing his father’s hands off his shoulders.
He had things to do.
He left his house, knowing it would be the last time he would be home in a long time. Unlike his usual half groggy walk, he now walking with intention. Each step was quiet, trained. Not one eye turned to him as he entered the clean pristine streets of the Elite Market.
It was the place he always told Verrine to avoid looking into, and the place he hated. It was not too far from the normal market, yet was so much more… Horrible. No nobles were allowed carriages, and horses were forbidden. The area was closed off by walls, the main street leading in being the beginning of the secrets. The deeper you got the worst it became. He passed each checkpoint, no one questioning his position as a Finch, or Scholar.
He went to the deepest corner, the last checkpoint passed with ease.
In the middle of the deepest area, stood a tent. It was a temporary dwelling, as the occupants only set up once every few months in their city.
He took a breath. This was the place he hated most.
He carefully placed an expression of nothing, and entered.
Inside was full with the smell of blood, metal, bile, and manure. It was enough to make the weak gag.
The images of the Beings chained, locked in cages, and held captive was another story. It would make the weak faint.
He was not weak.
He knew this was wrong. He knew this should be illegal.
But it was not.
Land Born did not have rights off their designated land. If not in a contract, or a slave, Land Born were fair game to THEM.
Eyes watched him as he passed, and his heart ached. He looked in each cage, memorizing their faces one by one. They had more Land Born then normal. It looked as if they were new to captivity as well. Many of them had “being trained” on their displays.
The Avian’s had their wings clipped, and were being suspended or caged. Demi’s were being displayed as novelties, with paints on them to highlight their animalistic features. Fauns and Centaur were being forced to clean, and cart their fellow Land Born around. Shifters yowled, being stuck in cages with bars so thick they could not fit an arm through. One of the hardest, was looking the Elf, Dwarves, Nymph, and Dryad in the eye.
It looks like THEY had no Sirens, Merpeople, or other water dwellers. The ocean was too far. But, why were there so many? Usually they had 15-20... But there had to at least be 50 different Land Born.
“Darkness... They burned out town...” He could hear the whisper of an elf, speaking to a female dwarf who was caged beside him.
“We as well... It happened fast. Why is this happening now? I thought the last war sealed...” One of the workers hushed them, fear in his eyes as he searched for the boss. The merchandise was not supposed to speak to one another.
“Yip!” He blinked, eyes turning to a cage farther back. There. That’s what he was looking for. A dragon.
It was young, almost newly hatched. It had scales of onyx, and wings of white. It had a distinct patch of snow white scales on its chest and paws. Eyes the colour of sky stared back at him, and it barked again. The dragon resembled...
He blinked, closing distance. The dragons tail wagged wildly. The tip of the tail, was also white. The dragon hopped on the cage, its tongue lolling out.
It couldn’t be...
“...Pup..” He asked carefully, standing in front of the dragons cage. The dragon barked again, pressing its head against the bars.
It was Verrine’s dog.
But, he was no longer a dog.
The dragon sat, its tail wagging wildly.