Lyra & Omen
Life in Shadows

Omen tried to ignore the shimmering at the edge of his vision. For years he'd been a normal human but the last year he'd been seeing strange things. It had all started right after his 21st birthday. When you think about it, people don't pay much attention about shadows. At one point in time they had however. Dark things could hide in your shadow, you could lose your shadow and many more of such things. Omen didn't know if any of those things held any truth. In modern times people didn't belief in such things.
But shadows are curious things. While moving from light to light, shadows run ahead and then suddenly fall back. They're constantly moving, watching. For the past year shadows had become a much more prominent thing in his life. They were always there. Light creates shadows. And the absence of light just makes everything shadow. Really, there is no escaping them. 
At first the shadows just seemed to lurk. Omen had just become aware of them. But lately they seemed to be interested in him. Maybe they knew he saw them for what they are. The last days more strange things were happening. At times he felt like he had an extra set of ears, a very sensitive set that augmented sounds. He could almost hear whispers around him. The soft sounds were different from the wind. Omen suspected it was the shadows talking. 
Almost as if he'd invited them in, Omen suddenly felt the hair on his body stand up. Every nerve-ending of his body tensed and his system got ready to flee. Because there was no fighting shadows. One of the shadows in his vicinity stretched and crept closer. 
Omen's breath hitched and his instincts took over, running away as fast as he could. Somehow he just knew the shadow was following. Omen had not been brought up to be religious, but somehow holy places seemed to hold the shadows at bay. Maybe it was the faith of the believers, maybe it was the years of praying or maybe it was the candles. Candle-light fluttered, making it difficult for the shadows to stay in focus. 
Which was why Omen was hightailing it to a nearby church. 

Lyra stretched her many legs and scuttled out of narrow fissure in the back wall that was her preferred sleeping spot. The walls hugged her tight and because of the darkness no-one ever noticed her. The church was still in use though with the decline in believers hardly anyone came. Every now and then the church would be opened for a funeral. This suited Lyra just fine. 
Today had been one such day and the soft light of the candles illuminated the interior. Normally the priest extinguished the candles before he left but today he seemed to have forgotten. Lyra carefully stepped closer to the light, keeping her senses on alert for any sign of humans. Most light hurt her eyes since she was used to hiding in the darkness, but this soft undulating flame was something she could get used to. 
Time had lost all meaning but Lyra had been in this church for decades. Once she'd had to be careful to hide in the crypt below the church but the last years she had felt comfortable and safe enough to venture to the surface. She'd even gone outside once. Marvelling in the outside air that had tasted a bit funny. 
Though there was a community of spider-women around, the solitary life suited Lyra more. The hierarchy at the community was very strict. Everyone older than you could be your mother and had to be revered, everyone younger could be ordered around. Others could only be trusted for as far as you could see them. And not even that far when an unsuspecting male human happened to appear in the village. Then it was finders keepers,... though some insisted to "find" the male in another woman's web. Ending up with a dead male and a lot of drama and frustration. 
But still, she hadn't severed her bond to her species completely. She was active on the spider interweb. The price had been steep, literally an arm and a leg, but luckily they grew back. Who knows what they used those for but Lyra had the eerie sensation that she could sometimes still feel what those severed limbs were up to. But the news she got from the interweb was worth it. It kept her up to date with the happenings at the village, but also told her the biggest events in the human society. That species wasn't faring much better. Lots of disease and dead and not enough music. So Lyra kept low. But with fewer services there was little for her to do. The absence of people and music had probably prompted her little excursion outside. 

The door burst open in a most unusual fashion and Lyra scuttled away. Omen had no eyes for the interior of the church, instead looking frantically at the shadows lurking outside. Light had come from inside so Omen hoped to find a priest or believer. It wouldn't do to come across as a nutcase so he tried to calm his breathing.
Lyra watched from the ceiling while the young man ventured deeper into the church. She'd only had a glimpse outside while the door flew shut but somehow this young man was being hunted by faeries and demons. He spelled trouble. Normally she would stay away from him, but she had been bored and she just wanted to know what was happening, her mind grasping at strings to get some excitement. 
"Excuse me, father?" Omen called, hoping to catch the priest's attention.
But after a fruitful and disappointing search, Omen sank down on one of the chairs and took stock of the situation. There was light, it wasn't too cold. So maybe he'd just stay here until morning. Shadows never felt as oppressive during daytime. 
"I can understand the faeries, but why are the  demons after you?" Lyra asked.
She used her most gentle voice and remained hidden so as not to scare the changeling. He acted too much like a human to be anything else. Plus the fact that he could stay in the church without feeling uncomfortable gave way that he hadn't been raised among his own kin. 
Omen looked up surprised and looked to where he thought the voice had come from, seeing only darkness. He panicked, thinking the shadows had followed him in. Maybe a church needed an active believer in it to be potent as a deterrent. 
Lyra picked up on the panic and stepped into the light, feeling a bit uncomfortable to put herself out there after so many years of staying hidden. She knew she looked like a monster to humans.
"I don't want to hurt you." She said, "I'm just curious. My name is Lyra."
Omen didn't listen and tried to get away from the imposing kumo-onna and mistakenly ran right into the crypt where she'd lived before. Lyra tried to warn him, but before she could do anything he was caught in her webs. They'd become quite permanent because she'd woven them so often in the same place. It wasn't much, but even she had a bit of innate magic to help her. 
As a proper spider-temptress she had one other feature and though she did not like it, she used it now. A voiced manipulation that calmed down unsuspecting humans. It seemed to be less effective on the changeling but he calmed down a bit.
"Let me help you." she said, "We have a lot of time."
"Are you going to eat me?" Omen asked.
"Caverns no. I get by on the insects around here." She could eat larger things but she wasn't going to spook the boy. He was turning out to be very entertaining.
"What is your name?" she tried again.
"Omen." he said, being unable to ignore her requests.
"So Omen, do you know that you are a changeling?"
His stunned look told her what she needed to know.
"I'm a kumo-onna, an eastern spider woman. Furries they call us now though I resent the term. I am in no way cute and cuddly. Nor am I hairy. I've lived in this church for a long time. And you are the first changeling I've seen here. I didn't know the faeries still swapped children."
"I was adopted." Omen admitted.
His parents had told him he'd been at an orphanage until he was one year old and then they'd taken him in. So no-one found it weird when he didn't look like them. Omen wondered briefly if he was having a big schizophrenic breakdown. After he'd started seeing and hearing things he'd done some research and he was the right age to develop symptoms. And since he was adopted he couldn't check if his family was vulnerable to psychological disorders. 
"Ah." Lyra nodded, "Of course, probably right after the baby was brought there so no-one had gotten to know him. Faeries aren't all that different from humans. Though they live longer and at a certain age they come into their powers. I'm guessing by your stalkers that you're there and becoming useful to them."
"You are a sleeper. So used to being human that the act doesn't cost you any effort. If they can groom you, you'd be very valuable."
"You make it seem so cold."
"Not many of us supernatural creatures are warm and kind. Most of us are pretty egoistic. It's a long life and you have to look out for number one."
"Is that why you are here?" Omen asked wondering why Lyra seemed to not include herself in those.
"I just like to be on my own."
Omen was stunned to find that he wasn't afraid of the spidery woman anymore. Logically he shouldn't trust her this soon. She might eat him still, or toss him out to the shadows. But he was strangely calm. 
"You said faeries and demons are following me?"
"Yes, well the faeries want to claim you back. Those I'd suspect. They manifest as shadows. Now the demons are trying to seduce you. They usually whisper of riches and dreams. I don't know why. I can only assume they want you for the same reasons as the faeries."
"The whispers started only a little while ago. The shadows have been there for about a year."
"It's strange that you haven't started to see them clearer. Maybe your tie to the human realm is too strong."
"My tie? Like my family?"
"Most people who raise a changeling notice something is off, they tend to not get too attached."
"My parents knew I wouldn't be like them, they didn't care."
"I can only guess at my own parents. When you live a long time, familial ties have less meaning."
"That shouldn't be true."
"Maybe I'm just cynical about my own experience." Lyra admitted.
In fact she'd only ever felt at home in places with music. Maybe her father had been a musician. The thought gave her a serene feeling of comfort. 
Omen meanwhile got back to the topic of conversation, "Do you know how I can get them of my back?"
Lyra grew quiet and considered the question a bit. She knew Omen wouldn't like the answer, but there was only one way she was certain would work.
"I guess you could keep hiding. There is no rule that says you have to accept their offers. But they are a crafty kind. Both faeries and demons will wear you down. The only other option you have is to form a bond with another that is stronger than their hold on you."
"You could become mine." Lyra told him. 
"As in your possession?"
"More like I claim you in about the same way as they want to claim you. It doesn't have to be me. I believe even a human might claim you with a vow. Like in a wedding. Or maybe the priesthood might be an option. You vow to God so you could say He has a claim on you then."
Lyra was feeling better about Omen's options. Indeed, he had a lot of options. 
"Only I don't have a lover and I'm an atheist so I don't actually think the priesthood would accept me."
Lyra chuckled, "Many who didn't believe have served here. But I like that you're honest. Let me check a few things. Maybe I can help you."
While Lyra looked up species that might form a strong bond with others and wouldn't hurt or force Omen in submission, Omen wondered if it would be so bad to belong to Lyra. Some strange voice was whispering in his mind. Suddenly his mouth went dry and his body went cold.
"Can the demons come inside? Something is whispering to me."
Lyra looked up and blushed, her face darkening, "Sorry that's me. I had to calm you down for a while. I haven't used it in a long time so I forgot to turn it off."
The whispers vanished instantly. Belonging to Lyra seemed far less of an ideal situation. Though Omen still felt quite safe in her presence. He looked around, checking for shadows but saw nothing except for the usual darkness outside. 
"I might have an option." Lyra told him.
"Word on the interwebs is that a dragon might be your best bet. They bond at birth and form a lifelong bond that is very hard to break. Both rider and dragon will look out and care for each other, forming a partnership. I'm quite interested so I want to come along if you don't mind. I can keep you safe as a reward for letting me join you." Lyra proposed.
"I don't think I have much of an option."
"There are always options." Lyra hinted at her previous suggestions but none of them had appealed much to Omen, "I have found a place that is like a big city in space. I believe the high level of technology might keep the faeries at bay. I don't know about the demons, but maybe they can help you there if you don't want me keeping them at a distance?"
"You can keep them away?" Omen asked.
"Briefly. It's like a courtship thing. As long as I break it at the hatching things will work out."
"I guess I'm stuck with you until then."
"I might not be good at conversation." Lyra said dead-serious.
"I don't think I'll be in the mood for happy banter either."
"okay. I've arranged for one to come pick us up. They'll get us to the Refugium and they'll tell us what we need to know on site."

Omen was surprised about the way he was coping with all this. Seriously it all sounded so crazy. Here he was, running from fairytale creatures with a spider woman who could have escaped straight from some nightmare and now they were headed to a giant city in outer space - of which humans had no clue that it even exists - aiming to bond a dragon. Omen could only conclude this had to be real though since he'd never been a very imaginative person. 
Lyra took a step back as a gold-haired, purple beast with too many legs to count appeared in front of them. Sorin, as the dragon introduced himself, was perfectly civil though.
"I wasn't expecting to arrive in an enclosed space."  he said.
"I'm sorry, we can't go outside right now." Lyra apologised, "Omen here needs asylum and a bond to keep himself safe from both faeries and demons."
"I see." Sorin said without even blinking his eyes like this was a conversation he had daily.
"Do you mind my extra legs?" Sorin asked with a thoughtful look.
"Not really." Omen shrugged.
After all he'd been in Lyra's company for several hours now and her spidery lower body hadn't bothered him. Despite her earlier warning, she had been good company and had told him about the things she'd experienced here at the church. 
"Then I might be able to help." Sorin smiled happily, "You see there's this clutch but it's been hard to find candidates who're not afraid of the parents and whatever may be in the eggs."
At this Omen did look a bit worried.
"Oh don't worry, the parents are lovely beings, they just also have extra limbs."
Lyra helped him on Sorin's back and latched herself on as well, claiming that they needed to keep close for the temporary bond to work. Sorin had been unable to tell them whether or not there were faeries or demons at the Refugium. 

Lyra dismounted first and helped Omen down from the friendly search-dragon. Sorin had been more than friendly and had even cleared their first hurdle by deeming them suitable to bond. Now all they needed to do was register at the visitor center and keep safe while they waited for the clutch to hatch. 
Sorin brought them toward the large and bustling building but was then promptly hauled away by someone else to help. Lyra barely got in a wave as thanks but hoped she would be seeing more of the dragon later. The two of them entered the visitor center and followed the signs to the desk. A bubbly pink raptor-esque dragon called Bolbec sat behind it and welcomed them. 
"Hello there." she told them, "I see you've been cleared for Eukith's and Tiax's clutches. They're my colleagues and I'm so happy they're getting babies."
"Would you mind telling me how long we'll have to wait?"
"Wait? Oh dear, the eggs just started hatching 15 minutes ago. I'll send you right on your way."
She whistled or did something to produce a shrill sound and a pink-coloured winged snake appeared.
"Aranuma, be a dear and bring these two to your bond please." Bolbec sang.
Lyra and Omen had to hurry to follow the small gem dragon but Lyra picked up the contented, girly sigh Bolbec let out before they were too far gone. Clearly this was a warm place despite the vast cold blackness that was all around them. 
Entering the room where the hatching was taking place, Omen could barely see a thing. Lyra took his hand and led him to the other candidates. There were quite a few, but not enough for all the eggs. But there was nothing to be done about it. 
Eggs cracked, others popped as little baby dragons fell to the ground. Far from looking like the traditional dragons Omen would recognise from movies, these dragons resembled spiders and skeletons. Lyra squeezed his hand and told him: 
"I'm going to release my claim on you so a dragon can bond. I don't sense any demons closeby, just the undead but since that's the mother of the clutch I don't think we need to worry."
"Okay..." Omen said hesitantly. 
Right after Lyra's words he felt like someone had pulled a veil from his eyes. Worry and anxiety briefly blossomed in his chest as he lost Lyra's soothing influence but he squashed them down as the shadows remained quiet. She was right, he was safe here.
It was one of the flaming undead hatchlings that came his way, one with just four limbs and 2 wings Omen couldn't help but note. Though the young dragon certainly looked like it could scare a lot of people, it didn't seem dangerous to him.
"That's because you are mine and I protect what's mine." the hatchling said, "My name is Araxel Li'Siboritiax."
Beside him Lyra smiled but that smile didn't last as she felt Araxel tickle the remains of her claim on Omen.
"I don't like this." Araxel said, looking angrily at Lyra.
"Like spider threads, this will fade." she placated but somehow the young hatchling ripped the silk remnants apart and tossed them behind him, hitting two hatchlings. Instantly both Lyra and Omen could sense their thoughts in their minds.
"Who are you?" the black skull dragon with bright red markings asked.
"It seems they are our bonds but not completely." the softer red dragon with spidery features added.
The two seemed to have similar colours, not unusual with the mother and father of the different clutches being twins. 
"It's because you tossed the threads." Lyra hissed.
She wondered if she could do something to revert the hatchlings bond. Maybe they'd been meant to go to one of the other candidates here. What if she'd deprived one of them from that?
"Worry not." the red cemetery spider Inedariath said, "We were meant for each other."
"It is so." Xaren added curtly, pleased to have the mystery out of the way and ready to get on with life.
And then suddenly, another presence made itself known to Lyra. A brightly glowing presence that nearly washed out the other two, though the bond they shared would not dissolve completely. 
"It seems I was late." the spidery orange hatchling called Enwenth said, "You are mine and they are theirs. I think we can please everyone like that."
A consensus washed through the shared mind of the 6 presences. They would be linked but clear boundaries were also there. In time they would maybe separate but none felt that that was a high priority. There was strength in numbers and both Araxel and Enwenth had to agree that having the two others on board would make things easier. 


Lantessama Isle  -  The Refugium
Background found with google long ago