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~ Previous Chapter ~
Well, that’s certainly one way to break the boredom.
AS MHYSRA HAD long suspected, sentry duty was boring. Beyond boring, it went straight through dull and ended somewhere near snoring in terms of excitement. And she’d only been at it for three days. As such she could hardly blame Cumulo for feeling grumpy as she tended to him after their flight.
“My wings hurt.”
“I know,” she murmured, rubbing his chest muscles, which were knotted and hard after half a day of slow flight around the watch area. Though good at gliding, diving and racing, slow flight was not Cumulo’s speciality.
“Even my wingtips ache.”
She hummed sympathetically and continued her massage. Though she didn’t doubt that he was hurting, she knew his discontent had little to do with his body. It was the disappointment. He’d started their flight to Wellingdrop full of excitement, revelling in the fact that his Rider had been given such an important task.
That enthusiasm had been checked on arrival. The eyries were little more than two shacks propped up in a cave. Not the kind of accommodations Cumulo was used to. Being on the lower eastern edge of the mountain, Wellingdrop was exposed and cold, sitting close to the Cloud Sea. There was always a wind and even inside the station it was impossible to escape.
Mhysra sighed and worked out some of her own frustration on her miryhl’s tired body. He didn’t seem to mind. By the time she was done, she was feeling pleasantly warm for the first time since she’d left Aquila and Cumulo was purring.
“Sorry, chickling,” he murmured as she tidied up. “But it’s like being back in Nimbys.”
“I know,” she sighed, leaning against his soft feathers and remembering the decrepit public eyries Cumulo had been forced to use. “At least we have a reason for being here. It’s work, Cue, important work.”
“And boring,” she agreed, kissing his beak. “Still, it’s good practise for being real Riders.”
“That’s right, cheer me up,” he grumbled as she walked away. “If this is a glimpse of our future, I almost wish I was back in Nimbys.”
She turned and raised her eyebrows. “With the rats?”
Unfortunately at that moment a particularly large rodent scuttled across the floor between them. They watched in silence as it vanished through a hole in the wall. Cumulo looked at her.
“Least you’ll never go hungry,” she offered, and escaped before he could start complaining again. Poor Cumulo, she did feel for him, but things weren’t much better for her and her sympathy wasn’t endless.
Shutting the eyrie door, she grimaced and rubbed her back, thinking wistfully of the bath caverns at the citadel and their steaming hot springs. She’d never appreciated them properly until now, when she was stuck in a place where hot water was a futile dream. Blowing into her hands and rubbing them together, she headed to her room to fetch her sword. Training should keep her warm, even if she had no one to practise with, since Jaymes was on patrol and Dhori was sleeping in preparation for his nightshift.
Besides the three students, there were four Riders in residence – one out with Jaymes, another sleeping while the other two manned the watch post on top of the crag. Normally there would be twice as many stationed here, but large numbers were a luxury Aquila could no longer afford. Which left Mhysra on her own. Still, there were plenty of exercises she could do and her shadow was a worthy opponent these days.
She’d been slashing and hacking long enough for her shadow to be in pieces, and to have worked up a light sweat, when she felt someone watching her.
Pausing to brush the curls from her eyes, she glanced at the figure silhouetted in the doorway. “May I help you, sir?”
The Rider stepped into the room and shook his pale blond head. “I was just thinking how well you’re coming along.” Lieutenant Lyrai smiled tiredly. “I thought you had potential back in Nimbys, but you’re turning out even better than I expected.”
“Practise,” she said, wiping her sweaty face on her sleeve and hoping he’d mistake her blush for the heat of exercise. “It’s not like we’ve had much else to do of late.”
“You do your instructors proud,” he praised, walking further into the room. Lyrai looked around at where Mhysra had pushed the tables and chairs up against the wall to give herself more room and drew his sword. “May I?”
Mhysra stared at him, her own sword lax in her grip. Hers was a standard Rider blade, nothing fancy. The grip was a hand-and-a-half in length, easily transferred from right to left, the blade designed with flight in mind, which made it light enough for even a novice to use. Lyrai’s sword, by contrast, was old. The cross-guard was a pair of miryhl heads whose beaks curved down towards the blade, which was etched with dragon runes. It was longer than a normal flight sword and looked heavier too. Only a skilled swordsman would be capable of wielding it from miryhl-back and still fly.
She looked from his sword to hers, then back again, foreseeing a quick end to this bout.
“It’s all right,” he said, drawing her attention to his smile. “I’ve sparred with students before and haven’t killed any yet. I promise not to hurt you.”
The boredom and frustration of recent days dropped away and she grinned. “It’s not me I’m worried about.”
His eyebrows rose. “Like that, is it?” he said, and swung at her.
Despite him moving at half-speed, Mhysra only just reacted in time. “Unfair!”
“You think a kaz-naghkt will hang around waiting for you to be ready before striking, student?” he taunted, still moving slowly as he drove her back, giving her time to muster her defence.
“If I’ve let them get close enough to hit me without raising my sword, sir, they deserve to get me.” She parried his strikes and settled into a comfortable rhythm. Until he cut under her guard and slapped her hip with the flat of his blade.
She scowled and slashed back, not bothering to go slowly. If he was going to tease she didn’t want to play anymore. A student she might be, but that didn’t mean she’d let him patronise her.
Lyrai leapt back, grinning as he parried her next strike then slipped away, leaving her swinging at empty air as he came up behind and tapped her on the shoulder.
Growling, she ducked and spun, aiming for his legs. Only a quick jump saved him from getting nicked.
“Hardly within the rules of engagement, student,” he reproved, though he was laughing.
She feinted an overhead strike, then thrust towards his ribs. “You think the kaz-naghkt bother to read the rule book, sir?” she mocked as he twisted sideways, their swords ringing when she swung after him.
Her blade screeched down the length of his and he whipped back, then forward again aiming for her throat. Mhysra borrowed his twisting sidestep and swung under his arm, ducking his retaliatory slash.
“Good,” he praised, kicking her hand away as she went for his legs again. “You’re a fast learner.”
Perversely, the praise only made her more annoyed and their swords clashed, screeching down to catch on the cross-guards. A tiny twist of the lieutenant’s wrist and the miryhl heads on his sword caught hold of her blade, making it impossible for her to pull free.
“Now,” Lyrai said cheerfully, their faces a hand’s width apart, both breathing hard, swords locked together. “If we were playing by the rules, I’d step back and let you untangle in peace.”
When he paused, bright eyes watching hers, a smile playing about his lips, Mhysra yanked her sword and cursed when it didn’t move.
He coughed, clearly holding back laughter. “Do you wish to play by the rules?” he asked mildly.
When he tugged lightly, Mhysra relaxed her grip and narrowed her eyes, guessing what would happen next. “No.”
“Good,” he approved, twisting his wrist hard.
As anticipated, Mhysra’s sword flew from her hand – but she was already moving. Rolling forward over her shoulder, she pursued it as Lyrai casually tossed it away. Her hand found the hilt and she continued rolling until she was on her feet again, facing her lieutenant, sword held in the guard position.
For a long moment neither of them moved, then Mhysra raised her eyebrows and tilted her sword, catching the light from the window to make it flash. “Well?”
“Very nice,” he praised, and leapt back into bout with a grin.
Come back on Sunday to see Lyrai’s take on things,
and to catch up with Derry.
Thanks for reading!