“Brother, I’ve seen half sucked prunes that look happier than you,” Volos said as he walked alongside his younger sibling. “The clan is settled, now is the time to move forward.”
Without looking up, he grunted a sound of acknowledgment and continued pulling the white strapping tape tight over his knuckles. The sound of crunching gravel under his heavy boots made his frown deepen with discontent. The clan’s dome had been destroyed by the phoenix, obliterated from the ocean’s belly. A handful of dragons had lost their lives, and his brother wanted them to ‘move forward.’
Easier said than done, thought Attor.
Volos reached his thick arm out, stopping Attor in his path. “I’m serious, Attor,” Volos said with a dropped tone. “The clan looks to us for reassurance. They need their warriors to confirm their safety.”
Attor lifted his head to meet the eyes of his brother. “Safety?” Attor repeated the word, the taste was acidic and unpleasant on his palate. “I can’t offer what there’s nothing of,” he said as he ducked under the arm that was pressing against his chest. Attor followed the natural curve of the path and entered one of the many chambers left by lava flows of a million years ago. The clan had set up a new home—with the help of some friends of the wiccan variety—in a small corner of a large inactive volcano. The sleeping giant was sitting off the east coast of Japan and hadn’t erupted in over a hundred million years, so it was considered extinct by many. However, the lava still flowed deep in its sleeping center, providing the perfect amount of warmth for the clan to set up a new nest-like home in a series of blocked off lava-made mazes. With a combination of the lava’s warmth and the wiccan’s spells, they had created an air filtration system, and things were back on track for the clan. Families had built homes into the sides of rock walls, crops were beginning to seed under a created weather system, and the central marketplace was back as the bustling hub of activity every Friday night.
Volos stepped into the room, dumping his gym bag on the bench seats as he looked up. This was the room the brothers visited most, second only to the kitchen. A small boxing ring was in the far-right corner, and to its left sat a variety of weightlifting equipment. There was a boxing bag hanging from the roof and a couple of workout bikes near the front. It was smaller than they had in the Oasis, but it served its purpose.
“Safety is a matter of mindset, brother,” Volos said as he placed a towel down on the bench press.
“You and I both know that’s bullshit, V.” Attor didn’t even look up as he stretched and clenched his hands, making sure the strapping he’d applied would hold up to his intended work out. Attor stood in front of the bag. Having removed his shirt, he was ready to beat the stuffing out of his inner demons for the third time that day.
When the Oasis fell, Volos knew there would be a period of adjustment for all of the clan members. The brothers as a whole had bound together and worked around the clock to make sure the clan was relocated and settled as soon as possible. They spent hundreds of hours in dragon form, digging out the lava tubes to form larger spaces. Volos had been impressed with how the brothers forgot all grievances between themselves to put the clan first.
As the last of the clan arrived, Volos began to see the change in his brothers. Jo and Ladon spent a lot of time exploring the new human neighbors. They had said unless they understood who and what the clan was surrounded by, how would they know if anything was altered, or a possible danger to the clan. V had agreed and allowed them a free pass to come and go from the Nest.
The brothers called the clans new home the Nest, as it reminded them of an ant’s home. Lots of twisting and turning tubes, ending in small rooms, and spiraling off the same sizeable central meeting zone.
Wyvern, his youngest brother, quickly returned to his computer studies, chasing leads, following anything that tweaked his security system.
The brother that caused him the greatest worry was Attor. He’d gone from being level-headed and logical, to now, having a bottomless pit of unease continually surrounding him. A nervous energy that caused immediate antsy-ness to anyone who was close enough. Attor had become as dangerous as a Nile crocodile, ready to snap and lash out with violence when anyone dared to joke around him.
“I know we’re as safe as we can be, and that the clan need to be…” V started to say.
Attor turned to look at his brother, he took a deep breath, his chest rising and falling with frustration. “V, if the clan needs their fucking hands held, I’m not the dragon to do it. The clan is not safe. We can’t be. Not while those winged beasts of the sky still fly…” Attor flicked around and laid a dozen punches hard and fast into the bag, it bounced heavily against his fists as he clenched his teeth “We were too comfortable…” Another dozen quick punches landed hard and fast. Attor’s breathing increased as the muscles across his back zigzagged from side to side with the force of his deep-set anger. “They got too close…” Attor held a hand against the bag to stop its movement, turning his head slowly to look at his brother “They killed Ryu…” swallowing past the lump that was threatening to close his throat, “… and nearly got Jo.” He flicked back with the speed of a snake as he laid punch after punch against a bag that groaned from the power-filled assault.
V watched his brother fight the demons that had settled in his head. It was true, the phoenix had cost the life of a number of dragons, including a warrior named Ryu, and almost cost the life of their brother Jo. It was a direct hit to all of the warrior brothers. They all shared the pain of the ones that were lost and the severity of how close others had come.
“It’s been over a year,” V said.
Attor froze, mid-punch and looked incredulously at V. “How long had it been before then? We got comfortable. You… let us get comfortable,” Attor said as he turned his head back to the bag in front of him. “I will never allow myself that comfort again.”
Attor wanted vengeance for Ryu and the others. He wanted blood to fall for the attempt of taking his brother. He wanted to personally tighten his fingers around the feathered fuckers’ throats until there was no life left. The lives of Ryu and the others would not pass in vain.
“Attor…” V started to say before he was distracted by the love of his life walking into the room. “Payton?” The anger at his brother’s accusation vanished from his face, replaced with love, as his eyes caressed what the fates had given him. She wore a simple white T-shirt and a pair of blue jeans, but in his eyes, she was the most beautiful creature on the face of the earth. “I didn’t know you were still here?” He grabbed his towel and bag, walking over to her open arms. “I thought you had left for work already.” A small sigh of contentment was heard as she wrapped her arms tightly around his chest and sealed the greeting with a kiss.
“Hope I’m not interrupting?” Payton asked as she looked over to Attor, he was paused, mid-attack on the workout bag.
“You could never interrupt me, my darling,” Volos purred at being near his mate. He glanced over at Attor and said, “We will continue this later.” Without waiting for Attor’s reply, he turned Payton in his arms and left the gym area.
“You go get comfortable in the arms of your love, brother,” Attor said quietly to himself. “I will never be unprepared again. Next time, we attack first.” Sweat flew off his body as he returned to his workout. His punches landed hard with the speed and accuracy of a viper.