(First time reading? Catch up Here!)
~ Previous Chapter ~
Nothing particularly testing in this installment, just Mhysra, Cue, Corin and Stirla hanging out in the eyries. Well, it is Sunday.
“YOU ARE ONE of the luckiest people I know.”
Blinking, Mhysra looked up from preening Cumulo. Corin leant against an empty perch, eyes closed, basking in a shaft of sunlight.
At the silence, her friend opened her bright eyes and smiled. “Well, you are.”
Mhysra shook her head and returned to work. “I have advantages, but I’m not lucky.”
“Why not?” Corin asked, watching the Riders arrive for their patrol. It was Starday and, despite being a free day for most, Rider duty never stopped. However, when Theryn didn’t appear she lost interest. “Look what you have.” She waved an arm, which Cumulo seized in his beak.
“Cue,” Mhysra warned, and he let go with a snort. “Sorry.”
Corin grinned. “Serves me right for waving it in his face, eh, Cue?”
Though fond of his reputation for being too arrogant to acknowledge lesser mortals, Cumulo occasionally condescended to notice certain people. Of Mhysra’s new friends his favourites were definitely Dhori and Corin, so he gave a regal nod.
Mhysra poked him and glared at Corin. “Don’t encourage him. All the attention he’s had since we arrived has gone to his head. He’ll think himself a god next.”
“He didn’t hurt me,” Corin protested on the miryhl’s behalf.
“But he might have.”
Cumulo crackled his beak, swinging his head around to nudge her. “I am not an idiot,” he grumbled softly enough for only her to hear.
“Be more tolerant,” she chided. “You can’t be grouchy when we’re Riders. Other people will need to touch you from time to time.”
“Not if they thump me in the face,” he muttered, and she tickled his crest.
“Just be careful, please.”
“I’m always careful.” Turning away, he stuck his head under his wing to sulk.
Corin watched the exchange with a smile. “Lucky.”
“What? Because I’ve been tied to this grump my whole life?” She yanked out a bent feather and stumbled as the reflexive twitch of Cumulo’s wing knocked her sideways. “Believe me, there are nicer miryhls. I’ve met them.”
“Lucky,” Corin said again. “You had a dream childhood. And whatever you say about Cue, I know you don’t mean it. If he was that bad half the Riders wouldn’t have tried stealing him away.”
Cumulo’s head came up and he puffed out his chest. When he nudged Mhysra, fishing for compliments, she gave him a shove. “They only want him for his looks. And yes, growing up at Wrentheria was a dream – I’m not disputing that. But that’s where I was born, and Cumulo’s part of that.”
“So what’s not lucky about turning old enough just in time for the proclamation?” Corin asked slyly, picking up a feather from the floor and stroking it straight.
“That had nothing to do with me,” Mhysra protested as Cumulo hopped onto a low perch, putting his legs at waist level. “And you’re here too. Does that make you lucky?”
“I’ve always been lucky,” Corin agreed, blowing the feather into the air. “Just not as lucky as you. Can I help?”
Knowing she wasn’t going to win this argument, Mhysra handed her friend a cloth. “Use this on his talons. I’ll do his legs – the oil needs to be applied by hand and it stinks.”
“Wow.” Corin bent to study Cumulo’s huge talons. Despite needing a clean the golden claws glinted, the edges sharp and deadly. “Remind me never to offend a miryhl.”
Cumulo chuckled and shifted his feet, while Mhysra poured oil into her palm and rubbed it between her hands. “Good advice. Most calm down once they’re bonded, but there are always ones with short tempers.”
“Like people,” Corin agreed, oiling the cloth and setting to work. Dust and grime smeared away as she rubbed in small circles, revealing the translucent shine beneath. “Is this right?”
Cumulo arched his neck and nodded.
“You’re a natural,” Mhysra agreed, tugging loose feathers from where they were caught on the rough skin of Cumulo’s legs and cursing when they stuck to her sticky fingers.
Coming to her rescue, Corin also removed the fluff in her braid. “Thanks for letting me help.”
“It’s good practise. For you and Cue. He needs to get used to being tended by others.”
Cumulo made a sound of protest and engulfed her under a wing, tucking her head and shoulders against his side.
Chuckling, Corin pulled her free. “I never knew how much care they needed. You hear stories about them talking, being created by Maegla and being as intelligent as us and all, so I assumed they could look after themselves.”
“Of course they can,” Mhysra said, while Cumulo squawked at the slight. “Like any wild eagle, miryhls are perfectly capable of looking after themselves. But the rigours of Rider work mean they deserve extra care. Like horsats and pyreflies. Besides I like looking after him and it’s a good way to strengthen the bond.
“As Lieutenant Lyrai says -” Mhysra cleared her throat and adopted a lecturing tone, “ – the form of a weapon is only half its strength. Without care the edge dulls and it will let you down in a thousand ways. A miryhl is a Rider’s first and most formidable weapon.” The bird gave another disgruntled squawk, and she chuckled. “Not that Cumulo would let me down, but oiling his claws every half-moon helps prevent cracks and keeps them strong. While preening the parts he can’t reach easily makes him more comfortable. They’re just little things here and there, but they add up.”
“I’d never have thought of these things on my own,” Corin said admiringly, shaking her head as she moved onto Cumulo’s left foot. “You’re a useful girl to have around.”
“Not all of us think so.” Lieutenant Stirla chuckled as they both jumped, startled to find him behind them “Sorry, I couldn’t help overhearing.” He lounged against a perch, a bridle draped over his shoulder. Across the aisle his miryhl Atyrn ruffled her feathers in preparation for being taken out. She gave them a regal nod, looking glossier than ever, eyes bright, beak shining.
“All the miryhls are grateful Lady Mhysra showed up,” Stirla continued. “Cumulo likes to talk, so no Rider gets any peace these days. It’s all nag, nag, nag. Preen me, bathe me, oil me, feed me more.”
Mhysra hid her face against Cumulo and mumbled something apologetic about baby miryhls and demanding natures.
The lieutenant chuckled. “It’s a good thing, mostly, and it does help with the bond. I know my Atyrn appreciates the extra attention.” He crossed to his miryhl and she crooned in welcome.
Corin sighed wistfully. “I don’t know if I can wait another month.”
“It’ll pass quickly,” Stirla promised, slipping the bridle over Atyrn’s beak. “You’ve already waited six moons. Not that any of you know enough to pick a miryhl yet. Most pairs muddle along and by the end of their time at Aquila they’re familiar enough. No one gets a perfect match right off, except those two.”
Mhysra and Cumulo snorted in unison. “Right off?” she contested. “We’ve been paired for fifteen years. We grew up together. We’re not a match, we’re family.”
“You make that sound like a bad thing,” Stirla chuckled, slipping Atyrn’s saddle into place.
“Do you have brothers, sir?”
“Then you’ll know why it isn’t always a good thing.”
Laughing, he secured the two girths tightly. “Even if you had the worst sibling relationship in history, you’d still have a better partnership than half the Riders. But I only have to watch you to know it’s far better than that. I hope you’re taking notes, Corin.” Winking, he slapped his saddle and sent Atyrn outside. “Enjoy your Starday, students.”
They said goodbye and Mhysra finished oiling Cumulo’s legs, before wiping her hands clean.
Corin leaned back against the rail again, shaking her head.
“What?” Mhysra asked, packing up her kit.
Corin’s lips quirked up. “Lucky.”
Hefting her stuff towards the tack room, Mhysra smiled as she watched Cumulo preen in the sunshine. Perhaps, though she wasn’t about to admit it, Corin had a point.
~ Next Chapter ~
All comments welcome – and if you spot a typo, please let me know.
Thanks for reading!