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~ Previous Chapter ~
In which Lyrai and Cumulo… talk.
THE OTHERS WERE still at breakfast when Lyrai slipped into the eyries. It was still dark as he crept around and beneath the slumbering miryhls, heading for the tack room to make one last check that everything was well before their long flight.
He wasn’t even halfway before a dark shape shifted to block his path.
Frowning, Lyrai looked up, then up again until he finally encountered an unmistakable pair of glinting golden eyes. “Cumulo,” he greeted with a sigh. A part of him had been expecting this.
The miryhl inclined his head. “I wondered if I might have a word… Lyrai.”
The hesitation before his name and the omission of his rank felt nicely ominous, and Lyrai almost applauded the eagle’s sense of theatre. He was a Wrentherin, after all, and they were a family well known for their dramatic inclinations.
Cumulo studied him for a long moment, then jerked his head towards the far end of the eyries, which was suspiciously clear of eavesdropping miryhls. “This way.”
Knowing a set-up when it was sprung upon him, Lyrai followed the strutting bird and looked around for his own bonded. Hurricane was on the other side of the eyries, nonchalantly preening his wings. That had to be a good sign… didn’t it?
Cumulo stopped once he reached the corner, and subtly shifted until Lyrai found himself boxed in. Even though he doubted Cumulo would go so far as to harm him, Lyrai couldn’t help feeling a little uneasy about how this talk was progressing.
“Rumours tells me you have been making… advances towards my Wingborn.”
More dramatic pauses, Lyrai thought, no longer quite so amused. “I believe the advancing was fairly mutual.”
“Is that right?”
“Yes. I believe so.”
Cumulo narrowed his golden eyes. “And yet after the first incident my Wingborn refused to look me in the eye. A little odd if the advancing was, as you claim, mutual.”
Gods, Lyrai was beginning to understand how Stirla must have felt that time he’d mistakenly flirted with a woman several years younger than she looked. Not to mention that newly married lady in Scudia, or those twin sisters back in Etheria, one of which was married, both of whom had been involved. Vividly. Lyrai could only hope threats of matrimony and/or dismemberment weren’t in his future. It was only a kiss – well, it was quite a kiss, but still – and then there’d been yesterday and the whole friends conversation. And if he was being honest he wouldn’t say no to further advancing, on either side.
He frowned, losing the thread of his thoughts, and blinked at Cumulo. “I think it was her first kiss. She was a little embarrassed. As was I.”
Cumulo’s feathers fluffed up in affront. “Embarrassed were you?” he demanded, thrusting his beak right into Lyrai’s face. “Is that just another word for ashamed?”
“No!” Lyrai jerked his head back so fast he whacked into the wall. Thankfully it was too rickety to give him a concussion, but it still smarted. “I mean, I probably should be, since I’m her lieutenant and she’s my student, and I am several years older than her. But I am not ashamed of what we did.”
Mollified, Cumulo settled his feathers and moved back. “Good.”
“Though it was a little embarrassing to be interrupted like that. I don’t think either one of us was quite ready for it. I mean, we’d only just discovered our mutual attraction -”
Cumulo snorted and Lyrai shut up. Okay, so perhaps he’d known that Mhysra had had a crush on him for a while. And maybe he’d been looking at her differently over the last half-year or so. Then again, after the fall of Aquila most things had taken on a distinctly different tone.
“I’m neither embarrassed nor ashamed about any of it,” he said instead, feeling the need to clarify everything before this arrogant fledgling got irritable again. “And neither is Mhysra.”
Cumulo eyed him. “Are you certain?”
“Yes. We talked about it last night. She’ll be able to look you in the eye now.”
A thoughtful pause. “Good. I do not like it when my Wingborn is upset.”
“Naturally not,” Lyrai agreed. No miryhl did.
“Then I am glad we are in agreement,” Cumulo said, a trifle smugly.
“Er…” Had he just missed something?
“From this moment onwards, I shall hold you personally responsible for my Wingborn’s happiness. Should so much as one curl droop on her head, I will be coming you,” Cumulo moved his beak into Lyrai’s face again, his pleasant tone lowering to a rumbling growl, “to explain why.”
“Ah.” He swallowed hard, wondering how he’d signed up for this with a kiss. Who knew a few moments of shared pleasure could be so perilous? At least without any clothes being removed, anyway. “A good lieutenant always takes care of his Riders.”
Cumulo didn’t move. If anything his growl deepened. “But you are more than just a lieutenant to her now. Are you not?”
“Yes,” he agreed, unable to deny that something special had sparked between them, and had been growing for some while. Perhaps as far back as their dance at the Midsummer Ball in Nimbys over a year and a half ago. She’d made him laugh…
“Good.” Cumulo moved back, ruffling his feathers in satisfaction as he flicked Lyrai’s cheek with a wingtip. “I always liked you, Lieutenant Lyrai.” His eyes narrowed. “I do hope my opinion won’t ever be proved wrong.”
“I thought you were never wrong,” Lyrai quipped before he could stop himself.
“See that I’m not. I would hate to spoil my perfect record.” With a regal nod, the miryhl shuffled aside, leaving Lyrai free to leave.
Which was just as well, since the door was already opening to admit the rest of their companions. Mhysra and Corin were laughing together as they looked around for their miryhls.
“Oh, before you go, lieutenant,” Cumulo purred, pressing a primary feather against Lyrai’s chest as he stepped forward. “That first kiss of Mhysra’s?”
Lyrai eyed him warily.
“It wasn’t yours.” With a smug chuckle, the miryhl hopped up onto a perch and bound across the eyries in answer to his Wingborn’s call.
Lyrai could only watch him go, seeing the smile on Mhysra’s face as she greeted her beloved miryhl. And despite himself, he scowled. Just who had Mhysra been kissing before him? Derrain, perhaps? He didn’t think it would be Dhori. Maybe she had a boy back home in the Lowlands, eagerly awaiting her return, pining for her smiles. Maybe even in Nimbys. There had been that cousin of Mouse’s. What was his name, Haward? Harlo? Har-
He jerked back into the present as Hurricane waved a wing in front of his face. “What?”
“I thought you wanted to leave this morning,” his miryhl told him, with all the patience of a bird who’d been calling his bonded for quite a while.
Lyrai felt his face heat up and muttered something incomprehensible before scurrying off to the tack room. What a way to start the morning. The day had to get better after this.
As he reached for Hurricane’s bridle peg, he caught a glimpse of Mhysra dashing past. A scowl settled on his face, but he forced his mind back to the task in hand and scooped up Hurricane’s flight harness instead. What did it matter who Mhysra had been kissing before him? Surely who she was kissing now was all that mattered. It wasn’t as if she was the first girl he’d ever kissed, after all.
Shaking his head at his own stupidity, he tacked up Hurricane and tried not to brood on kisses too much. After all, they had a long way to go before they reached Sanctuary – and who knew what fresh dramas they might face there?
More on Sunday.
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