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~ Previous Chapter ~
Well, Clerk Brenai? Is she allowed to enroll now?
THE RIDERS GAPED – the girl was telling the truth! She really was from Wrentheria, the best miryhl breeders on the Overworld. More than that, she was related to the family and was one of the rich, influential Kilpapans.
Brenai paled and fell back into his chair. “Lady Mhysra Kilpapan, did you say?” he asked weakly, the letter in his hand momentarily forgotten.
“Yes,” the lad replied cheerfully, as if he hadn’t just dropped a burning pyrefly egg on the clerk’s desk. “Didn’t she tell you? Mhysra, didn’t you tell him?”
The girl’s smile was wry. “I was trying to get in on my own.”
“You didn’t mention Cue?”
She shrugged. “I tried, but Wingborn don’t exist.”
Mherrin chuckled. “I’ll let you tell Cumulo that. I stopped by after I settled Ripple. He seemed happy to see me.” His bag whined and he twisted to reach it. “Oh, I almost forgot. Mam sent you something else.” Delving inside, he pulled out a bundle of fur and feathers, black patches on white, rumpled and growling. A nakhound pup. Seeing the girl, the puppy yipped, fluttering its black-barred feathery wings, paws scrabbling at the empty air. “Merry Midwinter.”
“What did you bring that for?” the girl demanded, yelping as the boy threw the pup into the air, where it flapped with more enthusiasm than skill, forcing Lady Mhysra to dive to catch it. Tail whipping about happily, the puppy washed the girl’s face.
“She pined for you, cousin. Saddest thing I ever saw. She searched all over the eyries. Your chicks almost ate her, but they were fighting so loud they woke Mhylo. They’re missing you too, but Mam’s doing her best. The fledglings looked for you a couple of times, but Da rounded them up before they reached the village. Without Cumulo to compete with they’re a lazy pair.”
Holding the nakhound at arm’s length, Lady Mhysra shot her cousin an exasperated look. “She’s one of Kilai’s. He’ll kill me.”
“He left them to Mam, and she knows best. Besides, he got one when he joined the Riders.”
“I’ve got Cumulo.”
“And he has Cirrus. All’s fair, cuz.”
She scowled at him, tucked the puppy under her arm and turned back to the desk. “Does this meet with your requirements, sir?”
Brenai was still blinking in astonishment at the previous revelations. “I – I believe so, my lady. Though parental permission is preferred.”
“I was raised by my aunt,” she said, icily polite. “She has every right to decide my future.”
Fidgeting, the clerk scanned the letter again. “Your aunt says you are Wingborn?”
“And that you are a Kilpapan?” Brenai sounded as though he was being strangled.
“Yet your letter of recommendation is from Mhylla Wrentherin?”
The cousins shared a glance, and the girl nodded. “My maternal aunt, yes.”
“Umm…” Brenai tugged at his neckcloth, sweating at the prospect of either turning away this gift of a student or offending the influential Kilpapan family. “Would it be possible to receive a letter from your parents?”
Lady Mhysra pursed her lips. “At this present moment, no.”
“Not when enrolment closed yesterday.”
Brenai coughed. “Well, classes do not begin for another five days. If you were given the opportunity, do you believe it is possible to gain permission before then?”
Her smile was beautiful. “For this chance, sir, I could do almost anything. You’ll have your letter before the first day of classes.” The cousins shared another look and the boy winked. Lyrai wondered how legitimate any letter signed by Lord Kilpapan would be, but it was no business of his. A Wingborn belonged in the Riders, male or female.
“You have five days, Lady Mhysra.”
“Thank you.” She bowed to the clerk and jerked upright when the puppy licked her nose. Casting it a disgusted look, she turned away, then paused. “Might I request a favour?”
Exhausted by the morning’s tribulations, Brenai waved her towards the two lieutenants.
Ever curious, Stirla stepped forward. “How may I assist, my lady?”
She studied his uniform, eyes lingering on his shoulder stripes. “It’s about my miryhl, sir.”
“Please, call me Stirla.” He swept up her hand – the one not holding the puppy – for a kiss.
Her eyebrows rose and she bobbed a curtsey. “Thank you, Lieutenant Stirla.”
He patted her hand and Lyrai had to stifle his amusement. He couldn’t believe that Stirla was flirting with a child ten years his junior – even if she was connected to two of the most powerful families in the East Overworld. Girls under sixteen, in Lyrai’s experience, were either unbearably silly or simply not interested.
“Tell me about your miryhl,” Stirla prompted.
She frowned and dragged her hand free, surreptitiously wiping it on her coat, proving Lyrai right. “He’s at the city eyries -”
Every Rider within hearing winced and Stirla dropped his flirtatious air. “Say no more, my lady. You should have come to us sooner.”
Taken aback by such swift acceptance, she smiled shyly. “I wasn’t sure a civilian would be welcome, sir. Many don’t agree with a girl having a miryhl, Wingborn or not. And I’m afraid he’s not looking his best.”
“Understandable considering where you’ve had to keep him.” Stirla shuddered, and he wasn’t the only one. The Riders had been trying to get the city eyries closed down for years, but since they were also used by pyrefliers and horsat messengers they had yet to succeed. “Miryhls are Rider business, my lady, and we’re always prepared to listen to those who live with them. I’ll send someone to fetch him immediately.” When the girl opened her mouth, Stirla chuckled. “Or you could bring him yourself.”
“Thank you, sir.” Dipping another curtsey, she hurried after her cousin.
“Well.” Stirla turned to Lyrai, eyebrows raised. “That was interesting.”
“And no doubt will continue to be so,” Lyrai agreed, nodding for his men to disband, since they weren’t on duty until the afternoon.
“Spending seven months in Nimbys doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?” Stirla chuckled, accepting his packet of written instructions from the harassed Brenai. “Girls in the Riders again and we’re here to help. We live in interesting times, my friend. If you’ll excuse me, I have to go and find space for our special guest.” Stirla set off towards the eyries, whistling as he went.
“Interesting times, indeed,” Lyrai murmured, and left to find his sergeant. A surprise inspection of his flurry’s mounts sounded like a marvellous plan.
~ Next Chapter ~
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