Aivish Envy by Matt Grigg

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SUMMARY: Rivalry in the Royal Household of West Daloi has dire consequences when the city of Nopir is besieged.

Chapter One: Attack

Alara woke with a gasp. The royal bedchamber was dark, and the aivish queen sat up in confusion, her skin prickling at the cold. She remembered a loud noise ending her dream and waking her, but now the room and the city outside seemed deadly quiet. The only noise was a light rain tapping on the expensive glass windows, casting trickling shadows into the room from the moonlight.

A large shape rushed past outside with a low rush of air. Alara started and woke up fully. She suddenly felt very exposed, and dragged the sheets around her before slipping silently out of bed. A cold draft skated over her feet as they touched the normally warm bomun-skin rug on the floor. As the aiv made her way to the door, her delicate, slightly pointed ears began to pick up a distant commotion from lower down the city. For a moment she thought she heard the crackle of a fire and panicked cries, but then the wind carried the sound away into the night. Finding that the door was safely locked, Alara padded to the window, the sheets sliding along the floor behind her.

The queen of West Daloi wished her husband hadn't been away at the Advisory Council that night. Normally Alara would not choose to be in his company, but in the dark, with strange noises coming from the city, she did not want to be alone. Peering down through the glass, what could be seen of the city below appeared peaceful, but the sound of shouting and panic could be heard more definitely. The city, Nopir, was the capital of West Daloi. It was built in layers as a huge, rambling tower. The stacked streets, districts and neighbourhoods were fastened via bridges and bolts to the tower-road, a tall, ancient structure that spanned the entire continent in an unbroken line of pillars and paving. The Royal Quarter was positioned at the pinnacle of the great building, slightly higher than the surface of the tower-road.

Alara pushed her cheek against the pane, straining to see the lower districts. Suddenly the view was blotted out by rows of reptilian teeth and large, piercing yellow eyes. Alara screamed and stumbled back as the animal cast itself away from the window again with a guttural snarl. The radraik pushed itself into the air with long, ugly wings and swept away to another part of the city. The queen of West Daloi stared as it circled in the air, its metal armour and chains glinting in the moonlight. Without warning, there was a thundering crash that shook the stone floor and wailing screams rose up to the window.

Someone hammered repeatedly on the chamber door.
"Your highness!" Alara recognised the voice shouting through the wood and ran to release the lock. In the hallway stood Gowayn, the Royal Porter, evidently having sprinted up the spiral stairs.
"Your highness," he said, his stocky torso shaking as he fought back his breath, "We're being attacked... by boakan."
The word struck Alara like a dead weight. The boakan came from the deserts to the south, and shared a history of bloody wars with the aivish nations.
"But, there was no warning," Alara said with shock, "Surely...

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