Rift Riders: Chapter 5, Part 2

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First time reading? Find out more about the Wingborn series!
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~ Previous Chapter ~

Oh, Kilai…



Knife Tip, the Wrathlen

WATER. WHAT KILAI would not give for a mouthful of water. The hunger left him weak, the stomach cramps made him writhe, but it was the thirst that was killing him. His mouth was drier than dust, his tongue felt too large and his head was pounding, pounding, pounding. It hurt to open his eyes, so he kept them shut, with his arms curled about his head. The fire in his wounds was a bleak counterpoint to the relentless thirst.

He felt weak, drained, feeble and useless. Even the scratches across his ribs failed to raise any interest. The first day he woke he’d used the scraps of his shirt to bandage them, stopping the blood that had flowed after he tore the cloth from the scabs. His breeches were plastered to his legs too, but he left them untouched. If he had wounds there he couldn’t feel them. They didn’t matter. All that mattered was that he was alive… and wished he was dead.

The thumping wasn’t just in his head as he lay miserably in his tiny cell. It came from above, with the heat. The roar of bellows, shouts in a language he was only vaguely familiar with, the clank and thunder of hammers on metal, all informed him that he was below a forge. And he wasn’t alone in the cells, though none shared his. Groans, curses and prayers drifted around him, barely audible over the daily din.

At night it was a different story. At least for the first few days.

Then the captives had been full of plans, talk of revenge, escape and victory. But now, how ever many days later, with no food or water and pitiful amounts of rest, they were all beaten and dying.

The floor was wooden, sanded and sealed like the hull of all skyships. Yet it creaked and moaned with motion, tiny cracks and crevices letting insidious chills in from outside. Once it had made him shiver, but as he descended into a delirium of fever and thirst, he was grateful for the tiny respites.

A prisoner. He was a prisoner. On a skyship. A pirate skyship, no doubt drifting above the Wrathlen. And he was here, when the last thing he remembered was Cirrus falling.

Cirrus. It was the only word, the only thought, the only name that could divert Kilai’s attention from the torment of his thirst. Yet like everything else in this gods-forsaken place, it was a question, a desire and a need he had no answer for. He remembered falling, then nothing until he woke. Was it three days ago? Four? Five? Had he been unconscious or insensible for longer than a day? His fevers came and went, leaving him none the wiser and all the weaker.

Cirrus. His parched lips formed the word, but his throat was too raw to force the word out. It hurt to breathe. But he thought of her constantly and worried. Was she dead? Should he hope she was, since the alternative was that she was being held too. She would never have left him by choice, not when he’d been taken. The wounds on his arms and sides testified to the sharp claws that had carried him here, but they gave no clues to his miryhl’s fate. Only the emptiness inside hinted at what might have become of her.

Poor Cirrus. He longed to see her, yet at the same time he hoped she wasn’t being held. Even if that meant she was dead. Better dead than imprisoned. No miryhl was meant to be kept permanently inside, permanently grounded. And no Rider was meant to be neglected like this. Why take prisoners only to let them die in the hold? It made no sense. Before he could form any reasons for it all, the fever swept back in and burned his thoughts away.

* * * * *

“WHERE ARE THEY?” Admiral Akavia’s strident tone was punctuated by a crack as she backhanded the prisoner across the face.

The man stared at her through blackened eyes, his lip already swollen from previous blows. Blood bubbled from his mouth and he spat a tooth onto her boot. She kicked him in the chest. When he hit the deck, his head thumped at an unnatural angle and he didn’t move. Akavia growled at her crew about clean up and waste disposal. The ill-fated Rider was dragged away, the bloody smear he left behind efficiently swabbed off, even before the pyreflies started shrieking at their feast.

Standing to one side, beneath the shade of his kaz-naghkt guards’ wings, Yullik watched the show. Despite new Rider prisoners being constantly brought in, as easy to catch as butterflies fresh from the chrysalis, this was the third prisoner the captain had interrogated and disposed of in as many days. Yet she had learned nothing. Perhaps Akavia’s methods weren’t the most effective.

Question, followed by a blow, followed by another blow if the question wasn’t answered. A show of disrespect earned a kick, an insult another blow, a lie a slash from her belt knife. She wasn’t the most patient woman in the world and she had the temper of a pyrefly. Ruthless too. Was it any wonder she was the admiral of the Wrathlen fleet?

She sat atop the rotting carcasses of her enemies, ruling her disparate crews with whip, tongue and knife. She was as widely feared as she was admired. Yullik found her amusing.

“They are useless,” she complained, cleaning her knife after its latest outing, when she’d carved her initials on the prisoner’s chest. “They know nothing. It is a waste of time. Send your guards to scout.” She glared at the kaz-naghkt pair standing over him, their leathery wings fully extended to protect him from the sun. More than six-and-a-half foot tall when fully upright, their presence overpowered the admiral, who was far from a small woman. Their talons were sharper than any knife she might tuck in her belt and they had more in one hand than she could ever hold. Their teeth protruded below their short upper lips and their wing spurs glinted, always armed, always ready.

Yet Akavia was not frightened. He had to respect the woman for that. The rest of the Wrathlen cowered and cringed around his kaz-naghkt. They watched them constantly, always wary, fingering their weapons. The kaz-naghkt ignored them, because he ordered them to, but he knew his guards were hungry. He could hear their stomachs growling every time a prisoner was dragged away and pools of salvia steamed upon the deck.

He would feed them later. For now Yullik wanted them to stand imperiously behind him, protecting him from the sun, even as their wings crisped and burned from the exposure.

When he said nothing to Akavia’s complaints, she scowled but didn’t dare glower at him. His kaz-naghkt might not disturb her – but he did. Which was a relief. He would hate to be losing his touch. And to think, he didn’t even carry weapons anymore. He’d been practising his smile and his charm, just for her. He knew how to make a woman feel appreciated.

“We should send scouts to find them,” Akavia repeated, uncomfortable with the silence.

“No.”

She frowned and darted a glance at his eyes, just for a heartbeat before she looked away. Her tongue darted out to wet her lips and she glowered at the kaz-naghkt again. “We are missing our chance. There will be but few watching. We should destroy them before more arrive. The prisoners are useless. They never talk.”

“Let them come,” Yullik ordered, because she was starting to whine. The trouble with the Wrathlen was that, despite their numbers, depravities and ferocity, they were used to losing. They did the same thing every year, going out and causing enough damage to ensure their reputation continued, but they were always beaten in the end. Whipped like the curs they were and sent scuttling back to their rocks, tails between their legs. Living on the edge of the world, clinging to their pitiful lives because they were worth nothing more.

Yullik was not used to losing and did not intend to learn how. Which meant it was time to teach the Wrathlen how to win. “Fetch another one.”

Akavia’s eyebrows rose as she stared at his shoulder. “What is the point? They have nothing to tell. You have seen this.” She wrinkled her nose, glanced around to ensure her crew weren’t eavesdropping – they were too busy avoiding the kaz-naghkt – and leant in close. “I only do it to entertain the crew and feed the pyreflies. It is the only value these prisoners have.”

“Bring one up,” he commanded as if she hadn’t spoken.

Pursing her lips to stifle her displeasure, she snapped her fingers at a crewman. “Fetch another,” she ordered, and the man hurried off. “Though why, I do not know. Waste of meat, since the ‘flies have eaten.”

He said nothing, just stood in his shade and waited. Until the new Rider was dragged onto the deck, skin sunken and tight with dehydration, eyes glazed with fever, body punctured by the marks of pyrefly talons. Yullik stepped forward.

When Akavia raised her hand to begin the interrogation in her usual way, he seized her wrist. “This one is mine.”

She stepped aside without a word and the Rider looked up from his position on his knees.

Yullik hunkered down in front of him, lifted his chin with his forefinger and smiled. “Good day, friend,” he murmured, extending the fingers of his right hand across the man’s throat until his skin began to tingle. “Would you like something to drink?”

The fever-glow faded from the man’s eyes and his cracked lips parted, the splits healing with a twitch of Yullik’s finger. The Rider licked his lips and swallowed hard. “Water,” he begged.

Yullik didn’t even have to look away as a flask was dangled beside him. He uncorked it and put it to the man’s lips, who guzzled gratefully. When the Rider was done his skin had lost the tight look and the worst of his cuts were gone. His bruises had faded, his lacerations had scabs and his eyes were clear.

“Look at me, friend,” Yullik commanded, and the man obeyed, helpless to resist.

Locking gazes with those innocent brown eyes, he smiled and cupped the Rider’s chin with both hands. “What is your name?”

“Cynek,” was the whispered reply, as though dragged from down deep against the speaker’s will. Yullik felt the Rider fighting his gaze, but the man was too weak, too tired, too defeated.

Cynek,” Yullik echoed, savouring the cadences of his name. Owning it. “Speak to me, Cynek, tell me what I want to know.”

“No…” It was a minor rebellion, a desperate plea. “Rumma.”

“Ah.” Yullik smiled again, his eyes probing the Rider’s gaze, digging into his mind and searching for clues to the man before him. “Yes. Rumma. Talk to me, Cynek, and I will reunite you with your miryhl. Is that what you want?”

“Rumma,” Cynek repeated, almost dreamily, and Yullik took that as assent.

“Then it will be so. By the time you have told me all you know, he will be waiting for you. Now, Cynek, where are the others?”

In the end it was as easy as spinning wool into thread – simple, in the right hands. He drew the answers from his subject, one by one, with no resistance as long as he kept moving forward, kept pushing and left the Rider no time to think. With his mind focused on Rumma, Cynek stood no chance. Even in his prime the man was no match for Yullik, though his task was made easier since the man was injured, starved and half-crazed with thirst. He did so like it when things were made easier for him. Some people relished a challenge: Yullik preferred to win.

And so, when he was done and Cynek had told all he could, Yullik let him go and smiled. “You have been helpful, friend. Most helpful indeed.”

No longer held by Yullik’s hands or probing gaze, awareness crept back into Cynek’s eyes. With it came the realisation of what he had done, what he had revealed, the depth of his betrayal. He looked terrified, disgusted and defeated all at once.

How delightful.

“What have I done?” Cynek whispered, closing his eyes and shuddering. “Oh, Rumma, what have I done?”

Bending until his lips rested against the Rider’s ear, Yullik whispered, “Your duty, soldier. Now have your reward.”

At his nod, the taller of his kaz-naghkt guards plunged its talons into Cynek’s chest, slowly clenching its fist before ripping free. Blood spurted as the kaz-naghkt pair howled with glee, catching the body before it touched the deck and tearing it to frenzied shreds.

Yullik turned away, satisfied that the man was dead. His reward had been given. All the prisoners’ miryhls had been killed rather than captured, so Cynek would be with his precious Rumma again soon.

Tomorrow Yullik would lead the Wrathlen fleet to sweep up the rest of the Rider remains and lie in wait for the reinforcements he knew would follow.

Then he would call in the rest of his kaz-naghkt and set a course for the true prize in this campaign: Aquila.


Sunday’s update has a cliffhanger ending. It’s only a wee one, but I thought I’d set my warning out early this time since I forgot on the last one.

Thanks for reading!

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A Royal Welcome

overworld-short-stories

This is a free short story featuring characters from the Wingborn series.
For more stories and info about the novels, please head here.

Taking place five years before Wingborn, when Stirla is eighteen and Lyrai is not quite sixteen. Both are freshly arrived at Aquila and about to encounter each other for the very first time…

(Thanks to EF for the suggestion. I never would have thought of this one on my own.)

Word Count: 3,500 words. Continue reading

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Overworld Extras

overworld-tales-2Things on Wattpad are going quite well where my Wingborn/Overworld tales are concerned, so to celebrate it, I thought I’d add a few short stories and deleted scenes around the place. On Wednesdays, since I’ve stopped the extra chapter updates.

I needed to make up this cover for Wattpad, but I’ll probably also make an ebook out of it one day when I have enough stuff to pad it out.

For now, I have a handful of short stories and a scattering of deleted scenes and alternative chapters. I’ll be starting with Wingborn related things, but I’ll probably move on to Rift at some point.

In the meantime, any requests? So far I have first meetings of Cue and Hurricane, Lyrai and Stirla, plus a Stirla survival lesson and a longer story about Stirla and Milli, but is there anything else people would like to see? First flights? When Stirla met Atyrn? Derry making the decision to join the Riders? Kilai’s first day at Aquila? Mucking about at Wrentheria? Downtime at Aquila? Something with Myran or Hylan or the dean? Maybe more Corin, Mouse or the other students?

I’m open to any and all suggestions. I can’t promise I’ll be able to actual write them, but I will definitely give it a go.

In the meantime, I shall go kick things off with when Stirla met Lyrai…

Merry Wednesday, everyone!

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Rift Riders: Chapter 5, Part 1

rr-ch5-1

First time reading? Find out more about the Wingborn series!
There’s also a frequently updated Character List to help keep things straight.

~ Previous Chapter ~

Early update since I’m away tomorrow and sadly not the larger-than-usual update (that’ll be next Friday, along with answers about Kilai) I may have hinted at yesterday. Instead you get a normal-sized update about what’s happening in Buteo and see Lyrai practising his lieutenant skills. Successfully or not? You decide ;D


Five
Yullik

 Buteo

THERE WERE NO easy tasks at Buteo, Mhysra thought, massaging her aching spine with one hand and wiping the sweat from her forehead with the other. Her Wrentherian farm chores had been limited to spring planting and the harvest, while proper workers did the difficult stuff the rest of the year.

Not so at Buteo, the not-so-widely known about farm of Aquila. A whole town, built on the western side of the mountain, perfectly positioned to catch the afternoon sun but secluded enough to be protected from the worst of the storm season. Ten families lived and worked here all year round, tending crops, trees and livestock, and manning the carts that transported the goods to the citadel and city through the tunnels. Mhysra was deeply impressed.

“One of the Overworld’s best kept secrets,” Lieutenant Fleik said, noticing that Mhysra was staring again. They’d spent a whole quarter-moon in the place and she was still fascinated. Drifting across the narrow mouth of the valley, the tip of its gasbag peeping over the north ridge, a narrow cloud-cutter came into view. Built for speed and stealth, the Harrier helped maintain Buteo’s secrecy.

“I thought the location of Aquila was the Overworld’s best kept secret,” Derrain quipped, groaning as he emptied a basket of potatoes into the cart beside the lieutenant.

Fleik chuckled as he lazed in the sun, ostensibly overseeing them rake through the vegetable fields. “Everyone knows where Aquila is.”

“Somewhere in the middle of the Cloud Sea,” Corin grumbled, throwing a couple of carrots into her basket and gladly accepting the water flask Mhysra offered.

“Doesn’t that apply to everywhere?” Derrain asked, draining a flask of his own, before scooping up his empty basket.

“Probably,” Fleik agreed, tugging his hat over his eyes. “Carry on, students.”

Mhysra shared a look with her friends, before they all shrugged and got back to work.

“You’re rebuilding the grain barn tomorrow, so this field needs finishing today,” Fleik reminded them.

“I know of something else that needs finishing today.” Corin glared at him, which was pointless since the lieutenant was dozing again. “I almost liked him when we first got here.”

“Only because he assigned you the cabbage patch,” Mhysra pointed out, “and you thought that would be easy. I did warn you.”

“Yes, well, some of us were raised in civilised areas, unlike you country bumpkins.” Corin stabbed viciously at the soil with her trowel, grimacing as she flicked a worm out of the way. “It’s a bad sign when a girl can’t even summon up a squeal after cutting a worm in half.”

Chuckling, Mhysra shook her head as she picked slugs and caterpillars off the lettuces. The first few days of their break had been punctuated by shrieks – not all from the girls – as unsuspecting wriggly creatures were uncovered. It was too much effort to react now, so everyone just got on with it.

“Only another quarter-moon, then I can sleep in a proper bed again,” Corin sighed, tossing a slug into the pest bucket. “All this fresh air is doing things to me.”

“Poor baby,” Derrain puffed, having trudged the length of the field again, gathering potatoes and carrots from the group’s baskets. He dumped them in the cart, his shirtless state revealing the gleaming muscles that had earned him such a chore in the first place. “If you get tired of poking the dirt, you’re welcome to swap.”

Corin raked him with an assessing – and frankly admiring – gaze and grinned. “We can’t all be bullwings in human form.”

“Miryhls! Messenger coming!” the shout echoed around the valley, jolting Fleik awake. Rolling to his feet, as if he hadn’t been snoring a heartbeat before, the lieutenant ran along the terrace to the walkway between the fields.

Mhysra threw down her tools, accepted Derrain’s hand up and hurried after him. She wasn’t the only one. Everyone in Buteo converged on the top green where they held morning briefings. Stirla was already there, making a space for the miryhls to land.

Glancing over her shoulder as she ran, Mhysra watched the eagles approach, broad wings spread wide as they glided in to land. When they passed into the shadow of the mountain, she stumbled but a grab by Derrain stopped her from landing face-first in the dirt.

“Careful,” he chided.

“It’s Hurricane,” she puffed, running harder and leaving Corin behind. Derrain kept pace with her as she pushed to the front of the crowd, eager to see why Lieutenant Lyrai was here.

With his unusual marble feathers, pale shades mottled with darker patches, so rare in the miryhl breed, Hurricane was instantly recognisable. He double-flapped directly overhead, washing the students with a cool breeze before touching down. Two others dropped in behind him, riderless and unknown.

Mhysra had never gone a full quarter-moon without seeing a miryhl before and she greedily drank in the sight. All her life she had been surrounded by these birds, but she’d never been made breathless by their presence before. Then again, she had just run up four terraces.

“Jasper!” Fleik grabbed the trailing reins of one miryhl and ruffled its chest feathers, while his sergeant took care of the other. Secretive looks passed between the lieutenants as Corin finally caught up and squeezed Mhysra’s arm. Hard.

“What’s happening?” she whispered.

Mhysra shook her head, not taking her eyes from Lyrai’s grim expression. “Nothing good.”

“All right, you lot!” Sergeant Rees shouted, making everyone jump. “You’ve work to do. This doesn’t concern you. Get moving!”

Plenty of students, Corin included, called Rees unpleasant names, but they all knew better than to stay put. If there was anything to know, they’d learn soon enough and it wasn’t worth risking Rees’ wrath for. Nothing stayed secret for long when Rift Riders were in the vicinity, even if they were only students.

Shrugging helpless at Derrain, Mhysra caught Lyrai’s eye and paused. “Maegla,” she whispered, and for once didn’t blush as her stomach tightened into a hard knot. The lieutenant looked away quickly, but not before she recognised the expression in his eyes and the twist of his mouth. Pity.

“Cumulo.” Without realising it, she stepped forward – and bumped into Rees.

“Going somewhere, student?”

“I need to talk -”

“No, you don’t,” he corrected, taking her shoulders and turning her around.

“But, sir, I -”

“No,” he repeated, shepherding her down the steps to the first terrace. “Off you go.”

“But -”

“Now!” he barked so forcefully she flinched.

“That’s enough, Rees.” The soft order made the sergeant scowl and he glared at her before stalking off. Leaving Mhysra staring up at Lyrai.

Suddenly she didn’t want to know what was wrong. Pressing a hand against her aching stomach, she stared at his boots and mumbled, “Sir?”

“Afternoon, Lady Mhysra,” he replied, making her feel worse. It had been months since she’d last been addressed by her title: Aquila was an informal place. Hearing it now only made everything feel even more unpleasant. “I must speak with you.”

When she looked up, he shook his head. “Later.”

Trying to force some moisture into her dry mouth, she croaked, “Is it Cumulo?”

He blinked, the pity in his eyes wiped out by astonishment. “No!” Wincing as his exclamation drew attention, he descended the steps and lowered his voice. “Gods, no it isn’t Cumulo. My apologies if I made you think it was.”

Mhysra exhaled slowly, while her heart thundered in her chest. As long as Cumulo was all right, she could handle whatever he had to say. Nothing could be as bad as anything happening to her miryhl. She even managed to smile. “Later, then?”

He nodded, and though he returned her smile it didn’t reach his eyes. They were still dark with pity, but now it confused rather than frightened her. “I’ll find you.”

“Yes, sir.” She bowed and hurried away, before he could unsettle her further.

* * * * *

“TROUBLE?”

Lyrai turned as Mhysra jogged down the terraces and met Stirla’s curious gaze. He shook his head, unable to muster up a smile for his old friend. “Later.”

Stirla raised his eyebrows but didn’t press. “Come into our command tent.”

Patting Hurricane in passing, Lyrai followed the other lieutenants across the green and into the barn. One corner had been set aside for the officers, with blankets and canvas strung up to offer a modicum of privacy. Pushing past the flap, Stirla pointed Lyrai towards an upturned crate before stirring up the stove and filling the kettle. Fleik took the crate next to Lyrai and Stirla settled on another while waiting for the water to boil.

“Spill,” he commanded. So Lyrai did.

As he talked Sergeant Loyek joined them and Stirla made the tea, shoving a steaming cup into Lyrai’s hands. The first sip warmed something deep inside him. Until he remembered the panic in Mhysra’s eyes when she’d asked about Cumulo. He sipped again, but the chill remained. How could he tell her about her brother?

“… too late to take them now. Tomorrow will have to do.”

Lyrai blinked, having only heard part of what Fleik had said. “Sorry?”

The lieutenant’s smile was wry. “I was talking about the students and when you’re going to move them. It’s too late to start now. You won’t get back before midnight.”

“What difference will it make?” Lyrai shrugged. “The tunnels are dark.”

“Excellent point,” Fleik conceded. “Ignore me, since I won’t be here.”

“All the more reason to move them tonight,” Stirla sighed wearily. “They’ll love this.”

“Better than spending the night answering questions about where we’ve gone,” Loyek said.

“Pretend it’s part of the expedition,” Lyrai suggested, gulping another mouthful and shivering as the warmth filled his chest. “A good Rider needs to be able to move out at a moment’s notice.”

“Then they won’t panic until we have them safely at the citadel,” Stirla murmured, slapped his hands on his thighs and stood up, decision made. “I’ll start them packing. Fleik, Loyek, I’ll see you when I see you.”

“Aye,” Fleik agreed, slapping his shoulder. “You’re coming along nicely. You too, Lyrai.”

“Luck,” Lyrai wished them both.

Fleik grimaced. “We’ll need it. Try not to wreck the citadel while I’m gone.”

As he and his sergeant left to gather their gear, Stirla shook his head. “What does he think we’ll do to it in his absence?”

“I don’t think it’s our actions he’s worried about,” Lyrai murmured, and looked around the barn waiting expectantly to be filled with the season’s crop. He only hoped they reached the harvest.

“Come on, misery.” Stirla poked his arm to rouse him from his morbid thoughts. “The sooner they hop, the sooner we stop, and we’ll all be home by morning. I’ve almost missed the old mausoleum.” He chuckled and headed out into the sunshine, not noticing Lyrai shiver. His friend’s vocabulary could be unnerving at times.

“Gods, please don’t take him at his word. He doesn’t mean it.” At least, Lyrai hoped he would never have to. Frowning, he followed his friend and tried to focus on something else for the rest of the afternoon.


~ Previous Chapter ~

Thanks for reading!

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Rift Riders: Chapter 4, Part 3

rr-ch4-3

First time reading? Find out more about the Wingborn series!
There’s also a frequently updated Character List to help keep things straight.

~ Previous Chapter ~

Only a short update today to finish this chapter off, but I’ll make up for it with a probably-longer-than-normal update tomorrow. Firstly, because the next chapter won’t split up into even portions, and secondly, I won’t be around on Sunday to update, which is why you’ll get it early (and then have to wait an extra day for the next). I’m all heart me ;D

In the meantime, having some lonely Lyrai moping about. He is very good at that.


Aquila
1st Fledgling

THE CITADEL was quiet. Lyrai couldn’t remember the last time he’d experienced such peace. All the first-years were out – Myran’s with Stirla, Fredkhen’s with Hlen – and the second-years were with Captain Fredkhen. The newly bonded third-years were scattered amongst the Rider flurries, gaining experience before their official graduation, all of which left the citadel deserted.

The servants and staff remained, but they were always quiet. There were also plenty of miryhls in the eyries, but when he stood on the bridge over the falls, the roaring water drowned out all except the loudest shrieks. After longing for solitude and rest for months, Lyrai was embarrassed to realise he felt lonely. His students had been gone for barely a quarter-moon, yet he already missed them. The noisy banter, the foolishness, even the giggling girls who spied on him and Stirla wherever they went. He missed his friend most of all. Who else was supposed to annoy him in the morning? Or make inappropriate jokes when he was being too serious?

Lyrai still had Honra, of course, but his sergeant had duties of his own to attend to and Captain Myran demanded a lot of his time. The captain was very busy planning with Hylan, leaving Lyrai to oversee the sentry rotations and running of the citadel. Not that there was anything to run, but he welcomed the small responsibility since it gave him something to do.

Gods, he was pathetic.

Look at him now, standing on the bridge, gazing at the white horizon while the falls thundered beneath his feet. What was he looking for? Skyships? Miryhls? Company?

“Lyrai!”

He turned, never more relieved to see his captain. “Sir?”

“Lyrai,” Captain Myran repeated, limping closer, Honra behind him.

Lyrai’s relief fled when he saw his sergeant’s expression. Something had happened. “Sir?”

“Come, we must talk.”

Falling into step with Honra, Lyrai followed his captain up the nearest stairs to the eyries. “Am I going somewhere?” he asked, still surprised that he could get so out of breath following a man who limped.

Captain Myran paused at the top, his breathing only a little disrupted. “Yes.”

Knowing better than to press for more, Lyrai bit his tongue and walked into the eyries. The place was largely deserted, except where miryhls basked by the open hatchways. It was a glorious day and the birds were making the most of it, especially those whose students were away. They purred and muttered, paying no attention to the humans passing through.

At the far end Hurricane lifted his head, while Cumulo nudged Myran’s miryhl awake. Honra’s bonded Flash – named for the silver stripe on his wings – hopped down to join them.

Smiling at Cumulo, Myran stepped between him and Hurricane, while Stirla’s miryhl Atyrn sealed the humans into a circle of sentient birds. They all leaned in, eager to hear what was being said.

“Trouble,” Myran began, in his forthright way. “A message from the Wrathlen. Hylan goes tonight. I leave with him, taking Imaino and your flurry, Lyrai.” When Lyrai opened his mouth, his captain shook his head. “Honra, I want you to find the dean’s ship. He took Strike, so he’ll be able to return with you. We need him here swifter than a skyship can fly. Lyrai, I want you to find Stirla and bring the students back.”

“Why?” he asked, while Hurricane and Cumulo pressed against his back, worried.

“The Wrathlen scouts are missing, presumed taken or dead. Hylan’s flight is down almost an entire flurry. It’s not safe for our students to be away from the citadel. Take Risk and Jasper so Fleik and Loyek can fly straight to me.”

“But, sir -” Lyrai began, until Hurricane nudged him hard in the back.

“Are you question your captain, lieutenant?” he rasped in his lowest whisper.

Lyrai sagged in defeat and could have sworn he heard Cumulo mutter, “I bloody would,” but when he glanced in his direction the Wingborn was preening his chest.

“I’m sorry, Lyrai, but I need men I can trust here with our students. Men Marshall can rely on. I cannot risk you or Stirla. The Flying Corps cannot afford to lose you. Watch our students and I’ll see you when I return.”

Balling his fists in frustration, he bowed in acquiescence, because it was all he could do.

“Good lad,” his captain murmured gruffly, limping into the tack room.

Lyrai hurried to catch up, while Honra gave a sharp whistle and shouted for Risk and Jasper, or any miryhl who knew where they were to fetch them.

“One last thing,” Myran said softly, shutting the door to the tack room and pulling Lyrai close so that even the sharpest miryhl ears would struggle to overhear. “Kilai Kilpapan is missing.”

Lyrai jerked back. “Gods!”

Myran patted his shoulder again. “I trust you, lieutenant.”

Wonderful. Lyrai had no idea how he was going to tell Kilai’s sister. Perhaps he should wait and see if he showed up again later. Except that his captain trusted him to do what needed to be done. Including telling a girl that her beloved brother was missing. Possibly captured by pirates, equally likely dead. Gods, he hoped for the lad’s sake he hadn’t been captured. Better to be dead.

With those cheerful thoughts in mind, he gathered Hurricane’s harness and asked some assistants to see to the other miryhls. For such a short distance to cover, it was going to be a long flight.


~ Next Chapter ~

Thanks for reading!

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Dragging it Out

[I was going to do a terrible dragon pun, but I thought I’d spare you (except I kind of haven’t… oh well).]

Work has resumed on Storm Rising and I’ve now passed the halfway point (I think). In terms of word count it’s coming along fairly well, but wow, it feels like I’m dragging it out of my imagination, one stubborn chapter at a time.

I’m lucky because I’ve always been a fast writer. I usually have a vague idea of where any story I’m writing is heading, and the details helpfully fill themselves in along the way. This often means that the deeper into a book I get, the faster I write. Which is great, as long as I have time enough to harness the creativity. When I don’t have as much time, the slower pace usually means I can spend more time thinking about what’s coming up and maybe playing with details to make them fit before I have to write them down.

Not with this book. It doesn’t matter how much time I spend thinking about it, the plot still refuses to let me know anything further ahead than a chapter at most. If I think I know where it’s headed, it almost always changes on me as I’m writing it. I don’t know why, but this series really doesn’t like to be thought out in advance. The first book didn’t go anywhere near where I wanted it to, and now that I’ve given up on reaching the one main goal of the second book, suddenly they all veered off course and have now arrived.

I’m not complaining, as such, because the words keep flowing and things are progressing, but it’s not how I’m used to working and I just hope this isn’t going to be how everything goes from now on. One good thing about this series, though: it might not let me see the plot in advance, but it does keep throwing up images of the places they will hopefully end up next. I just wish I had any kind of fantasy landscape artist skills, because I would love to show them off in more than words.

Ah well, I shall just have to stick with what I have and maybe one day I’ll be lucky enough to afford to commission someone to do it for me.

In the meantime, Wingborn is definitely loose in the wild now and I’m finally going to update the links on various pages. If you’ve been waiting for it turn up free somewhere other than Smashwords, here are a few:

B&N || iBooks || Kobo

It’s still not free on Amazon, but if you really want to pay for it then I’ll add various links on the Books page under the Overworld header.

Merry Midweek, all!

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Rift Riders: Chapter 4, Part 2

rr-ch4-2

First time reading? Find out more about the Wingborn series!
There’s also a frequently updated Character List to help keep things straight.

~ Previous Chapter ~

Still with Lyrai and Hurricane as the ceremony is concluded. There’s also a quick trip to Buteo to see how the students are coping under the dubious benevolent care of Stirla and Fleik.


IT TOOK A WHILE for all the third-years and miryhls to be sorted out. Not because anyone was late or didn’t attend, but because they were all too excited to do as they were told. By the time Myran and Lyrai had confirmed that everyone was present, and that each student stood in front of their own miryhl, noon was swiftly approaching.

“Lieutenant Lyrai Henstrati Henrykran,” the High Tempest called, when everyone was ready.

Beside him, the Cyclone straightened. “Miryhl Hurricane.” Her voice was rich and deep, missing the hoarse rasp that most miryhls had. Her words rolled like thunder.

Swallowing his nerves, Lyrai stepped forward, relieved to feel Hurricane at his back. He licked his lips and focused on the High Tempest as the old man held a book towards him.

“If you be a Rift Rider, brave and true, with courage in your heart and strength in your arm, faith in your soul and honour in your actions, rest here your hand and repeat after me.”

The words, heard before and never forgotten, struck a chord deep within Lyrai’s chest and he found it hard to breathe as he rested his right hand on the worn leather cover. It was warm beneath his sweating palm and he sighed with relief as if he had achieved the impossible.

The priest smiled. “I, Lyrai Henstrati Henrykran, Lieutenant of the Rift Riders…”

Lyrai dutifully echoed, though his voice rasped with nerves.

“Before these witnesses, in the presence of the High Tempest and the Cyclone, under the eyes of Maegla, do swear my allegiance to the Rift Riders and the Overworld.

“I vow to serve and protect, to answer all calls for aid, to keep safe the vulnerable, to fight when needed, to build when asked. I will take no part in needless destruction, nor commit senseless slaughter. My conscience I commend to the words of Maegla and my soul I entrust to Her. Should I serve my time, good and true, to Her hands will I be delivered come the end.”

As Lyrai spoke the last line, a shiver travelled through him, passing into Hurricane and back again. Though he had sworn the oath of service before, and never yet had cause to break it, he repeated it willingly. For Hurricane’s sake, as well as his own.

The High Tempest smiled. “For your faith, Maegla will reward you.” He took away the book and the Cyclone extended her wing.

“Place your hand on me,” she commanded, her voice leaving Lyrai no choice in the matter. Hurricane rumbled his displeasure and the Cyclone looked at him. He shut up.

“You stand before me today, Lyrai Henstrati Henrykran, but this is not our first meeting.”

“No, Excellency,” Lyrai squeaked.

“You have been blessed by Her grace before, yet here you stand requesting a new gift.”

“Yes, Excellency.”

She was silent for a long moment and Lyrai wanted to cower beneath her hard, silvery stare, but he was a lieutenant of the Rift Riders, with Hurricane strong at his back. So he locked his knees and raised his chin.

The Cyclone huffed, possibly in amusement, and lowered her head to rub beaks with Hurricane. “Maegla wills it so.” She peered at Lyrai from one eye. “Perhaps this time your choice was better made, eh, Prince?” To his complete astonishment, she winked. “Hold out your hand.”

Too stunned to refuse, he didn’t even wince when she sliced her beak across his right palm, crossing over the faint scar that was already there.

Hurricane croaked in concern, then squawked indignantly as the Cyclone yanked a feather from his wing and handed it to the High Tempest. The thick shaft was spotted with blood.

“By blood and word, a bond is formed.” The priest drew the crimson quill along the line of Lyrai’s right palm. As their blood mingled a fresh wind picked up from the north and the wound on Lyrai’s hand sealed. The scar beneath faded, removing the last evidence that he had ever been bonded before.

“Maegla’s blessing be upon you,” the High Tempest murmured, and kissed Lyrai’s palm.

It was a break from tradition and Lyrai jerked at the unfamiliar touch. Then flinched as the Cyclone lowered her beak again and gently nudged his hand.

While Hurricane tucked Lyrai possessively against his chest, the High Tempest kissed the miryhl on the beak and the Cyclone beak-tapped him almost affectionately.

“It is good,” they chorused and stepped back, allowing Lyrai and Hurricane to bow.

His palm tingling, Lyrai stroked Hurricane with his left hand, wondering why this felt so different from his first bonding ceremony. The words were – mostly – the same, the actions near identical. Yet back then he had been overjoyed and too excited to do anything but beam at everyone. Now he felt more perplexed than excited, though a weight had lifted from his chest. He could breathe more easily than he ever had in his life. His right hand prickled, but other than that he felt wonderful.

Turning, he pressed his cheek against Hurricane’s chest, listening to his steady heart.

A strong beak riffled through his hair. “Now you are mine,” Hurricane mumbled.

“Did you doubt it?” Lyrai enquired, languid and at peace.

A chuckle rumbled beneath his cheek. “I never will again. Maegla wills it so.”

Lyrai just smiled, enjoying the moment as the first student was called to make their bond in the presence of the High Tempest, the Cyclone and the benevolent goddess.

* * * * *

Buteo
28th Sun

THE SKY WAS the deep indigo of early evening, scattered haphazardly with stars as Mhysra and her friends entered the barn. Scents of old hay and sanded wood mixed with human sweat and smoke as they made their way to the cook station in the centre. The inside of the barn was enormous, designed to store a whole summer’s crop before being carted through the tunnels to Aquila. For now it was three-quarters empty, reminding the weary students of just how much work they had yet to do.

“Cheer up,” Stirla laughed, dishing out the evening stew with liberal slops of the ladle. “You’ve already lasted three days.” When this earned nothing but dirty looks, he smirked. “At least it isn’t raining.”

Mhysra couldn’t help adding a silent yet to the end of that sentence and sniffed as she accepted her bowl, shuffling off to find a corner to collapse in.

“Gods,” Corin groaned, easing down onto the floor beside her. Her knees creaked and she grimaced. “I am so grateful my parents are merchants. How did you lot survive?”

This question was followed by a nod in Mouse, Greig and Jaymes’ direction, since all were farm boys used to such gruelling work. Until now Mhysra would have called herself a farm girl, but three days out in the fields of Buteo had corrected her. Her whole body hurt, including muscles she’d never known she had.

“They say you can used to anything,” Dhori murmured.

Greig responded with a surly grunt. “They say a lot of things. All I know is that there was a reason why I joined the Riders, and it wasn’t to get closer to my uncle.”

They all huddled around their bowls and glared at Lieutenant Stirla, who had finished his meal and was propping an old chalkboard up on top of a table with Lieutenant Fleik’s assistance.

“What now?” Derrain questioned wearily as the barn fell silent, the students pausing in their measly meals to watch their lieutenants with wary suspicion.

“I knew he was too happy,” Greig muttered, giving his uncle the evil eye. Stirla caught the look and winked. Mhysra and her friends groaned, knowing nothing good was coming next.

“All done, my lambs?” Fleik called, rapping the soup ladle on the table. “Enjoying our summer break?”

“Don’t know about the summer bit, but I definitely feel about to break,” Corin murmured, causing her friends to snicker.

Fleik looked at them and smiled an evil smile. “Excellent. Now, since farming life isn’t what you’re used to nowadays, we kindly lieutenants thought we’d give you time to settle in, not wanting to rush you too much. But since you’re so sprightly -” The students looked around for the guilty culprit, but they were all drooping where they sat. Even Dhori. “- we thought it was time to move things along. Lieutenant Stirla?”

“Lessons,” he announced, in the same way a child might be greeted with a birthday cake or midsummer surprise. When the students gave a collective groan, he tossed a piece of chalk in his hand. “Nightly.”

“Wouldn’t want your brains to rot, would we?” Fleik added.

“I still have a brain?” Mouse grumbled, earning tired chuckles.

“Whether you had one in the first place is open to question,” Sergeant Rees remarked from the sidelines, as delightful as ever.

“Brain or no brain,” Stirla continued, losing a little of his glee as he turned and wrote on the board. “You will be having nightly lessons. Starting now.” He underlined the word on the blackboard then pointed at it. “Kaz-naghkt. Flying pestilence, dangerous menace and deadly enemy. How do you kill one, Mouse?”

He spun and pointed swift enough to make Mouse jump. “Er… with a sword?”

Stirla raised a pitying eyebrow. “Mhysra?”

“Stab them through the heart,” she said, remembering her own experience against the kaz-naghkt at the end of the previous year. Stirla waved his hand in a keep going motion, and she glanced at Dhori for help. Her friend reached out his fist and yanked backwards. “Oh! Stab them in the chest and rip out the heart.”

“Good,” Stirla praised, with an acknowledging nod at Dhori. “Anyone know why?”

If any of them did, they were too tired to offer an opinion, so Stirla turned back to the board and drew a kaz-naghkt: human-like body standing tall, arms and wings outstretched, tail coiled limply around the feet.

While he busied himself drawing another one beside it, this time from behind, Fleik took over the lecture. “While the exact origins of the kaz-naghkt are unknown, it is safe to assume they have dragon blood in them. Why, Fhyrin?”

The young student gave a start and blinked sleepily. “Um…” He listened intently as his friend repeated the question in a whisper. “Wings?”

“A start,” Fleik agreed, then pointed to a different group. “Lerya?”

The girl swallowed nervously. “Scales?” When he waved for her to keep going, she sat up straighter. “Umm… teeth, claws and tail. They look like dragons forced into a human shape.”

“True enough,” Stirla said, dusting chalk off his hands. “They also have toxic blood.”

“And it’s that blood that makes them so difficult to kill,” Fleik continued. “When fighting humans, rampant bullwings, maddened pyreflies and so on, a blow to any of the limbs will greatly hinder your opponent. Not a kaz-naghkt.” He used his finger to swipe a line through the diagram’s arm. “Cut off a kaz-naghkt’s arm and your victory will be short lived.”

He chalked in the broken lines again. “Cut off almost anything on a kaz-naghkt and it will grow back. Some things take longer than others and some injuries may even cause it to withdraw from the fight. Temporarily. If it ain’t dead, it’ll be back and you’ll be in trouble.”

“Ripping out the heart is one of two sure ways to kill a kaz-naghkt,” Stirla said, drawing a big cross over the diagram’s chest. “Why?”

“Without the heart the blood flow stops,” Dhori answered. “And without the blood the kaz-naghkt lose the power to regenerate.”

“Good,” Fleik praised, to no one’s surprise. “The regrowth ability lies in the blood, another dragon feature. The only way to get at a kaz-naghkt’s heart is through the chest. Why, anyone?”

“Scales,” Lerya repeated her earlier answer with more confidence this time.

“Exactly.” Stirla shaded his back-view diagram with chalk. “All of this is as hard as rock, enough to turn away arrows, swords and spears, no matter how close you get. Never stab a kaz-naghkt from behind. You’re only wasting your time.”

“And probably your life. Unless you go for the wings,” Fleik’s sergeant, Loyek, pointed out.

“True.” Stirla nodded. “Though in the air they heal almost instantly, unless you slice through one of the big muscles and on the ground that’s pointless.”

“So don’t bother with the wings, don’t think yourself clever if you lop off an arm and always aim for the chest,” Fleik recapped. “Anything else?”

“Get your miryhl to rip off its head,” Derrain called. “That seems pretty effective.”

“Indeed,” Fleik said. “But only if you have a miryhl at hand. Don’t try it yourself. Your sword won’t cut through the nape scales. It needs a twist and rip. Any more tips?”

“Aim to smash and break bones, rather than cut,” Dhori spoke up again. “It takes them longer to heal a break than to remake a whole arm.”

“Very good.” Stirla beamed. “Especially the arms and ribs, though if it’s flying cutting off the tail can really mess up its balance. Good, I think we’re getting somewhere.”

Resting her chin in her palm and her elbow on her knee, Mhysra was happy for her lieutenants, she really was. They looked so pleased with themselves for having taught the foolish first-years how best to beat the enemy. Except she was struggling to keep her eyes open and she was sure Corin wasn’t the only one in the barn already snoring.

“Next, reasons and ways to avoid getting splashed with kaz-naghkt blood and how best to treat the burn.” When Stirla clapped his hands before turning to scribble on the blackboard, only half of the students twitched. As he began lecturing in his deep, rolling voice, Mhysra’s eyelids drooped lower and lower. The last thing she remembered was slumping sideways and hitting her head on Derrain’s shoulder. Her friend snorted, then resettled his head on top of hers before they both drifted off to sleep.


~ Next Chapter ~

Thanks for reading!

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Rift Riders: Chapter 4, Part 1

rr-ch4-1

First time reading? Find out more about the Wingborn series!
There’s also a frequently updated Character List to help keep things straight.

~ Previous Chapter ~

Sorry about last week’s cliffhanger. You may have wait a little longer to see how that turned out… sorry. Just to let you know, that will probably happen a lot in this book.

In the meantime, let’s catch up with Lyrai in Aquila, where some very special visitors are about to arrive.

(Oh, and in case you missed it, I have now posted a character list that I’ll update each week, just to help everyone out with all the names. There’s one for Wingborn too, but this one will be much longer.)


Four
Bonding

Aquila
27th Sun

IT WAS A DAY of expectations, of nerves and fearful excitement. It began at dawn, when an unfamiliar skyship was sighted to the southeast. Students scrambled to snatch glimpses from every window, watching as miryhls and a bullwing boat drifted towards the citadel. In the eyries, the miryhls were restless, knowing what was coming.

Lyrai was embarrassed to find himself as agitated as the third-years, though he hid it better. Still, it was beyond him not to peer out of the nearest eyrie hatch and watch the procession approach. They looked so ordinary, but to a lucky group of students they meant everything.

“Are you ready?” Hurricane asked, standing behind Lyrai to see the new arrivals for himself. Though his deep voice was as smooth as always, Lyrai could feel his big eagle trembling.

“As I’ll ever be,” Lyrai admitted. “Though it feels as if we’ve been together all my flying life.”

Huffing at the compliment, Hurricane riffled his beak through Lyrai’s hair. “Will they have brought Froth?”

Lyrai raised his eyebrows at the sullen hint in his miryhls voice. “I won’t go back to her. You’re my miryhl now, and far better suited to me than she ever was. I made a bad Choice, but if not for that, I would never have had a chance to fly with you.”

Hurricane hunched his wings and said nothing.

Smiling, Lyrai rested a hand against his bonded’s chest. “If not for the difference in our ages, I’d swear you were my Wingborn. There is no better miryhl in the Overworld.”

“I’m not jealous,” Hurricane sniffed. “There’s no need to placate me.”

Lyrai smiled and kept his thoughts to himself, secretly pleased. “I’d better go.”

In a rare display of affection, Hurricane tucked his beak over Lyrai’s shoulder and brought him close to his chest. “I will see you at the ceremony.”

Burying his face in Hurricane’s feathers, Lyrai breathed in the sweet, slightly dusty smell of his miryhl and patted him over the heart. “Then I’ll be yours in the eyes of the Riders, the citadel and Maegla. You won’t be able to get rid of me after that.”

Hurricane let him go, crackling his beak pensively. “The world believed that of Froth once.”

Resting his hand against Hurricane’s beak, Lyrai looked him in the eye. “We are bonded, you and I. The ceremony only makes it formal. Maegla knows it. I know it. Soon you will know it too. In blood and belief.”

The miryhl rocked from foot to foot, betraying his uncertainty even as he bowed his head and sighed. “I will see you later.”

With a final pat on the beak, Lyrai left the eyries and headed for Maegla’s Hall. It was going to be a busy day and as both a lieutenant and a flight instructor he had much to do.

*

“AH, THERE YOU are, lieutenant.” Captain Myran turned when Lyrai entered Maegla’s Hall. As the highest ranked officer left in Aquila – with the dean still in Nimbys, Captain Fredkhen away with the second-years and Captain Hylan flying sentry – he looked far from comfortable with his latest round of duties. “You already know the High Tempest, don’t you?”

Lyrai smiled: he knew the High Tempest very well indeed. As the leading priest of Maegla across the entire Overworld, the High Tempest made his home at the cathedral in Nimbys. Among his many important responsibilities had once been the role of educating the Stratys’ children, Lyrai included.

A stout man, getting on in years, he had a smile for everyone, even boys more interested in playing outside than attending to their scripture studies. He wore that smile now, his cheeks folding into lines engraved with age and good humour. “Lieutenant, it is good to see you.”

Lyrai clasped the old man’s hand, surprised at the strength of his grip. “And you, Excellency. Maegla has smiled upon us both.”

“She has always cared for Her favoured sons,” the priest agreed, leaning on Lyrai’s arm for the walk across the hall. At the far end two enormous doors had been opened, though they were normally hidden behind tapestries, and a group of miryhls waited on the brilliant green Lawn beyond.

Out of the many, Lyrai only recognised two and both made his breath catch. The first was the biggest, most impressive miryhl on the entire Overworld. No true Rift Rider could look at her and remain unmoved. This was the second time Lyrai had seen her, but his heart still thumped at the sight.

Almost twelve feet tall, her feathers were the same bronzed-brown as most of her species, until the sun touched her. Then she gleamed with pewter shades as changeable as a storm cloud. Her eyes were blue, a colour found in no other miryhl, and the true key to what she was.

Maegla’s eagle: Cyclone.

This was the holiest miryhl on the Overworld, as important to her kind as the High Tempest was to the Riders. And breathtaking. In the past there had been Riders lucky enough to partner one of these great eagles, but not for a hundred years or more. This Cyclone was almost fifty years old and had never shown any sign of wanting a Rider on her back.

As he bowed to her, showing proper respect not just to her goddess but to the miryhl herself, Lyrai stole a glance at the other bird he knew. Small, beside the mighty Cyclone, slender and pretty, Froth looked well. Yet when he saw her he felt nothing. None of the familiarity that had once linked them, no shred of a bond and not even an echo of the bitterness that had soured their last meeting. He was able to look upon the bird that had been his partner for over five years and feel nothing.

“Hello, Froth.”

She tipped her head, equally untouched by his presence, but then she’d always been a good actress. Looking at her with an unbiased eye, he could acknowledge that she was a beauty, built for speed and show. Why in the world had he picked her? Compared to Hurricane she was all wrong for him. He hoped she was happy now, as he was.

“Ah, excellent, you’ve seen her.” The High Tempest patted Lyrai’s arm, before hobbling over to the Cyclone. “Since Forth has healed enough for short flights, Clo suggested we bring her along. Makes the separation ceremony more final if both parties are present.” The priest patted the great Cyclone as if she were a dog. The miryhl maintained a dignified manner, though the glance she shot the old man was full of affection.

Without a bonded Rider of her own, the High Tempest was the closest contact the Cyclone had with humans, even if she saw him rarely. Despite the main Cathedral of Maegla being in Nimbys, the miryhls had their own private sanctuary on the edge of the Storm Peaks, where they went to heal and recover or retire after breeding. It was there that the Cyclone ruled, permitting only humans of her choosing into their company, and only very rarely.

Even though he dealt daily with these sentient birds, Lyrai couldn’t help being unnerved by the air of intelligence and command that surrounded the Cyclone. She was no ordinary miryhl. If she had been human, she would have been no ordinary woman either. She glanced his way, but what she saw with her distinctive eyes, he could only guess. He just hoped she wasn’t angry with him for making a bad Choice with Froth. A bond with a miryhl was a goddess-granted privilege and could not be lightly put aside. Not that he was planning to make a habit of it. Hurricane was his perfect partner, now and always.

Turning her head, the Cyclone murmured to the priest, and he smiled. “Yes, of course. Myran?” the High Tempest called, looking for the captain. “You may call the students and miryhls now. We are ready.”

As Myran bowed and sent a runner to ring the bell, the priest beckoned Lyrai closer. “As a captain-in-training, Clo thinks you should assist us today. But first we must dissolve your ties to Froth and seal your new bond with…?” He looked up expectantly.

“Hurricane,” Lyrai replied, voice squeaking under the Cyclone’s heavy regard.

“Hurricane,” the High Tempest repeated. “Is he coming or will you need to fetch him?”

Before Lyrai could answer the bell calling students and miryhls to the Lawn rang, and the first eagle arrived. Mottled cream and pale brown, Hurricane landed firmly behind his Rider and glared at Froth. The smaller female turned her head away and yawned.

“Excellent,” the priest chuckled. “That makes things easier. Froth, if you would come here, please, we’ll have this cleared up in no time. Been a while since I did one of these, so you may have to bear with me.” He took Lyrai’s arm and tugged until he was standing beneath the Cyclone’s deadly beak. “Nothing to be alarmed over, I assure you.”

That was easy for the High Tempest to say – the Cyclone wasn’t looking at him as if he might be a tasty snack. Lyrai swallowed hard.

“An offering, please, Froth,” the priest said, running his fingers over the miryhl’s extended wing. “Nice and loose.” With a swift tug, he plucked a small feather free. “Some hair, if you would, Clo. Hold still, Lyrai.”

It wasn’t anything he would ever admit, but Lyrai was too terrified to move as the Cyclone bent her great beak towards his head and snipped off a section of his hair. The High Tempest caught it and put it with the feather in a battered silver bowl.

“Perfect.”

Humming beneath their breath, the High Tempest and the Cyclone closed their eyes and ruminated over the bowl as the priest shifted it in his hands, making the contents swirl.

“What was bound in blood, now unwind,” priest and miryhl spoke together. “By the Goddess’ blessing, part these ways and leave them free. In the storm we trust.”

Before Lyrai’s incredulous eyes, the contents separated, with the feather keeping to one side of the bowl and his pale hair keeping to its own. Even as the High Tempest continued to swirl the bowl, they didn’t mix, held perfectly apart as if by invisible hands.

“Your word, your bond, be released in the eyes of Maegla.”

There was a soft rush of air, a quiet pop and the contents of the bowl ignited. The acrid scents of scorched feather and hair curled into the air. A gentle breeze slipped across the lawn, stealing the ashes and wafting the smell away. Within heartbeats they were gone.

“Lovely,” the High Tempest sighed with satisfaction, and put the silver bowl to one side. “You are free to go, Froth. Your service to Maegla and the Riders is concluded.”

Froth glanced at Lyrai and yawned again. She eyed Hurricane with a gleam of interest, but shrugged her wings when he only glared at her. With a respectful bow to the Cyclone and a courteous nod to the High Tempest, she took herself off and out of Lyrai’s life for the last time.

When she was gone, Hurricane tucked his beak over Lyrai’s shoulder and tugged him closer. “How does it feel?” he murmured.

Lyrai chuckled and stroked his miryhl’s face. “Wonderful,” he said, though in truth he felt no different. “Like a weight has been lifted. I’m free.”

Hurricane preened the area where the Cyclone had taken his hair and rumbled with discontent. “Mine.”

Resting his head against his eagle’s heartbeat, he smiled. “Yours.”

This time when he caught the Cyclone’s eyes on him, he felt her approval and relaxed. Perhaps she wouldn’t eat him after all.


~ Next Chapter ~

And since I’m already mucking about with character lists and the like, are there any more world-building type extras you’d like to see. Other than a map, because although I have one, I don’t currently have enough time to tidy it up enough to share with anyone else.

Thanks for reading!

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Rift Rider Character List

rr-character-list

Because there are a lot of characters in this book, in a variety of locations, I’m providing this list by request. It contains all the named characters in alphabetical order, and will be updated as I go. It’s only a brief summary of each person, so if there’s more you’d like to see/know, let me know and I’ll see what I can do (as long as it doesn’t involve spoilers).

Humans
Akavia – Admiral of the Wrathlen Fleet. She has anger issues.
Brathyn – (Brath) Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Hylan’s flight.
Cayn – Rift Rider Captain.
Corin – Rift Rider student. Female.
Cynek – Rift Rider. Captain Hylan’s flight.
Derneon – Aquilan swordsmith and tutor. Ihran.
Derrain – (Derry) Rift Rider student. Male. Mhysra’s best-friend.
Dhenn – Rift Rider. Captain Hylan’s flight.
Dhori – Rift Rider student. Male. All-round mystery.
Fhyrin – Rift Rider student. Male.
Fleik – Senior Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Myran’s flight.
Fredkhen – Rift Rider Captain. Nicest man in the Riders.
Gerynth – Rift Rider. Captain Hylan’s flight.
Greig – Rift Rider student. Male. Stirla’s nephew.
Haelle – Rift Rider student. Female.
Heirayk – Overworld Sun God.
Hensyn – Rift Rider Sergeant (Brathyn). Captain Hylan’s flight.
High Tempest – High Priest of Maegla, from the Cathedral in Nimbys.
Hlen – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Fredkhen’s flight. Shy.
Honra – Rift Rider Sergeant (Lyrai). Captain Myran’s flight. Competent and capable.
Hylan – Rift Rider captain.
Imaino – Senior Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Myran’s flight.
Janoi – Rift Rider. Captain Hylan’s flight.
Jaymes – Rift Rider student. Male. Red head. Silveo’s best-friend.
Jynese – Aquilan kennel worker. Kilai’s girlfriend.
Kilai Kilpapan – Rift Rider. Captain Hylan’s flight. Mhysra’s brother.
Lenfyr – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Cayn’s flight. First woman to come out under the new rules.
Lerya – Rift Rider student. Female.
Lorryth – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Hylan’s flight.
Loyek – Rift Rider Sergeant (Fleik). Captain Myran’s Flight.
Lykano – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Hylan’s Flight.
Lyrai – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Myran’s flight. Imercian Prince (but he doesn’t like to talk about it).
Maegla – Overworld Storm Goddess.
Marshall – Dean of Aquila.
(Lady) Mhysra Kilpapan – Wingborn. Rift Rider student. Female.
Mouse – Rift Rider student. Male.
Myran – Rift Rider Captain. Legend.
Poyl – Rift Rider. Captain Hylan’s flight.
Rees – Rift Rider Sergeant (Stirla). Captain Myran’s flight. Surly and unpleasant.
Remfyrd – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Hylan’s flight.
Silveo – Rift Rider student. Male. Jaymes’ best-friend.
Stirla – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Myran’s flight. Lyrai’s best-friend.
Theryn – Rift Rider. Captain Myran’s flight.
Willym – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Fredken’s flight. Nasty piece of work.
Wrest – Rift Rider. Captain Hylan’s flight.
Yullik – The creepy bad guy with kaz-naghkt protectors.

Miryhls
Argon – Male. Jaymes’ bonded.
Atyrn – Female. Stirla’s bonded.
Cirrus – Female. Kilai’s bonded.
Cumulo – (Cue) Wingborn. Male. Mhysra’s bonded.
Cyclone – Female. The holiest miryhl on the Overworld. Maegla’s miryhl.
Flash – Male. Honra’s bonded.
Froth – Female. Lyrai’s ex-bonded. Retired, wounded.
Hurricane – (Cane) Male. Lyrai’s bonded.
Jasper – Male. Fleik’s bonded.
Risk – Female. Loyek’s bonded.
Rumma – Male. Cynek’s bonded.
Strike – Male. Dean Marshall’s bonded.
Zephyr – Female. Derrain’s bonded.

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Wingborn Character List

wb-character-list

Featuring all the named (and relevant) characters from Wingborn, in alphabetical order.

Humans
Alyne – Rift Rider student. Female.
Bovei – Rift Rider student. Male. Arrogant twerp. Favourite of Willym.
Brathyn – (Brath) Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Hylan’s flight.
Brenai – Clerk. Stuffy. Works in Nimbys Flying Corps Headquarters.
Corin – Rift Rider student. Female.
Derneon Weaponsmith – Aquila swordsmith and tutor. Ihran.
Derrain – (Derry) Rift Rider student. Male. Mhysra’s best-friend.
Dhori – Rift Rider student. Male. He’s a mystery.
Fhyrin – Rift Rider student. Male.
Fleik – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Myran’s flight
Fredkhen – Rift Rider Captain. Nicest man in the Riders.
Gedanon Swordmaster – Aquilan weaponry tutor. Ihran.
Greig – Rift Rider student. Male. Stirla’s nephew.
Haelle – Rift Rider student. Female.
Harlan – Selection school student. Doesn’t last. Mouse’s cousin.
Heirayk – Overworld Sun God.
Henryk III – Stratys of Imercian. Lyrai’s father.
(Prince) Henryn – Lyrai’s brother. Heir to the Stratys of Imercian.
Hethanon Armsmaster – Rift Riders Nimbys selection school trainer. Ihran.
Hlen – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Fredkhen’s flight. Shy.
Honra – Rift Rider Sergeant (Lyrai). Captain Myran’s flight. Good man.
Hylan – Rift Rider Captain.
Ierali – Rift Rider student. Female.
Imaino – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Myran’s flight.
Jaymes – Rift Rider student. Male. Red hair.
Jermyn – Rift Rider student. Male.
Jynese – Aquilan kennel worker. Kilai’s girlfriend.
Kilai Kilpapan – Rift Rider. Captain Hylan’s flight. Mhysra’s brother.
Kilren (Earl) Kilpapan – Mhysra’s father.
Lerya – Rift Rider student. Female.
Lithaen – Overworld Sky Goddess.
Lunrai (Countess) Kilpapan – Mhysra’s mother.
Lyrai – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Myran’s flight. Imercian Prince (but he doesn’t like to talk about it.)
Maegla – Overworld Storm Goddess.
Marshall – Dean of Aquila. Legend.
Memlo – Mistrunan guard.
Mherrin – Mhysra’s cousin. Boisterous. Wants to be a pyreflyer.
Mhylla Wrentherin – Mhysra’s aunt. Breeder of the best miryhls on the Overworld.
Mhylo – Mhysra’s older cousin.
(Lady) Mhysra Kilpapan – Wingborn. Rift Rider Student.
(Lady) Milluqua Kilpapan – (Milli) Mhysra’s older sister.
Mouse – Rift Rider student. Male. Boisterous and nervy.
Mullia – Mhysra’s cousin.
Myran – Rift Rider Captain. Legend.
Naelya – Rift Rider student. Female.
Nehtl – Head Healer at Aquila.
Rees – Rift Rider Sergeant (Stirla). Captain Myran’s flight. Miserable man.
Roumn – Rift Rider Captain.
Stirla – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Myran’s flight. Lyrai’s best-friend.
Talro – Mistrunan guard.
Theryn – Rift Rider. Captain Myran’s flight.
Thylek – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Roumn’s flight.
Timpkins – Rift Rider. Captain Myran’s flight.
(Captain Khene) Torven – Captain of the skyship Thorncrest.
Typhaestus – Overworld God of Death.
Ulla – Selection school student. Doesn’t last long.
Willym – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Fredkhen’s flight. Horrible waste of human skin.
Yordice – Rift Rider Lieutenant. Captain Roumn’s flight.

Miryhls (and others)
Atyrn – Female. Stirla’s bonded.
Breeze – Female. Myran’s bonded.
Bumble – Mhysra’s nakhound pup.
Cirrus – Female. Kilai’s bonded.
Cumulo – (Cue) Wingborn. Male. Mhysra’s bonded.
Froth – Female. Lyrai’s ex-bonded. Retired, wounded.
Hurricane – (Cane) Male. Lyrai’s bonded.
Jupi – Female. Greig’s bonded.
Latinym – Male. Dhori’s bonded.
Mercata – Female. Willym’s bonded. Mean.
Onyx – Male. Mouse’s bonded.
Ripple – Horsat mare. Mherrin rides her to Nimbys.
Shield – Male. Bovei’s bonded.
Thunder – Female. Haelle’s bonded. Scary.
Twister – Female. Fhyrin’s bonded.
Wisp – Female. Corin’s bonded.
Zephyr – Female. Derrain’s bonded.

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