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~ Previous Chapter ~
Four more chapters to go!
And yet another three parter this week – but I think it’s the last one. Poor Mouse.
Four more weeks to go!
It was sleeting. Again. “The joys of Aquila,” Stirla grumbled, tipping his hat further over his face. “How can you bear this every day?”
Blinking water from his eyelashes, Lyrai chuckled; supervising an afternoon flight was the least of his worries. “I like flying.”
“So do I.” Stirla shuddered as ice trickled down his neck. “When it’s sunny.”
Lyrai shook his head. After spending so much time grounded, he’d tackle a blizzard if it was his only chance to fly. “Come on.” He slapped Stirla’s shoulder. “Time to get your feet wet.”
“They’re already wet,” Stirla muttered, trudging over to Atyrn.
“Stop complaining. Once the blizzards truly start you’ll be spending plenty of time inside.” Lyrai secured his hat and shuddered. He was not looking forward to the next few months.
His friend grunted and hauled himself into Atyrn’s saddle, Lyrai mounted Hurricane and they launched into the miryhl-filled skies. It was Sunday, which meant all the first-years flew together, regardless of their flurries, and all Lyrai had to do was watch. Thankfully he was assisted by three lieutenants and four sergeants. It wasn’t unheard of for the captains to join these practise flights, but Lyrai didn’t blame them for keeping out of the sleet.
Circling above the students was like staring into the eye of a storm as the miryhls lapped the field. The more confident flyers rose to the top or darted through the middle, while the nervous stayed close to the ground. The four young lieutenants watched from above, while the sergeants kept order amongst the flock. After a while the sleet lessened, easing visibility, so that the pairs resolved into individuals.
Shaking the water from his eyes, Lyrai shivered and studied his students. Dhori and Latinym were rising from bottom to top and down again, while Mhysra and Cumulo swirled in and out of the main flow behind them. This exercise was too tame for them, but everyone had to practise together. Derrain and Zephyr, Corin and Wisp, Haelle and Thunder, and Mouse and Onyx bobbed behind Cumulo and Latinym like bows on a kite tail, making Lyrai smile.
An ill-advised attempt to race between some cocky students drew his attention and he was on the verge of intervening when Hurricane tensed.
“Mouse,” was all the warning he got before his miryhl dived.
Gripping handfuls of feathers, Lyrai squinted through the rain and swore. Mouse indeed. Eager to copy his friends, the foolish boy had urged his miryhl too high, too fast and collided with another student: Bovei fra Benlei. A favourite of Willym’s, Bovei did not make allowances for accidents.
Even as Hurricane arrowed down, Bovei raised his flying crop – and how he had one of those when they were banned, Lyrai could only guess – and lashed out. As Bovei was a mean-tempered bully, Lyrai expected him to aim for Mouse. Instead he slashed at Onyx’s face.
“No!” Lyrai and Hurricane roared together, and Lyrai urged his miryhl even faster, diving straight through the flock of novice pairs. Miryhls scattered and students yelped, but Hurricane ignored them. Since no one fell off, Lyrai did likewise.
Onyx squealed and dodged the whip heading for his eye, taking the brunt of the strike on his wing. Already unbalanced from the collision, Mouse slipped, hands grasping at the wet saddle but finding no purchase. The leather straps, which should have been holding him in place, were unbuckled: he’d been copying his friends again. Onyx shifted to catch him, but Bovei cracked the whip across the miryhl’s neck. Bruised and wounded, Onyx flinched.
“Mhysra!” Mouse plummeted through the cloud of miryhls.
Cumulo dived after him. With more strength than finesse, the Wingborn seized the boy’s leg and flapped frantically to slow their reckless descent.
With Mouse safe, Hurricane didn’t bother to check his own speed. Balling his talons, he punched straight into Bovei. The whip went flying. Lyrai barely had time to shift his weight as his miryhl wheeled about and dropped onto the smaller eagle’s back.
Being bigger, heavier and angrier, Hurricane easily drove Shield down. Lyrai didn’t object, even with a student trapped between – Bovei deserved it for striking a miryhl – and watched with relief as Cumulo carefully lowered his burden before landing.
Mhysra reached Mouse first, turning him over to check his leg, exclaiming at the blood. Stirla carried the boy from the field at a sprint, leaving Hlen to take care of poor Onyx.
“Return to the eyries and tend to your mounts!” Captain Myran ordered, emerging from the sleet with Fredkhen and a squad of Riders. Left with no other choice, the students dispersed.
At last, Hurricane brought Shield down and lifted off him. Before the miryhl could launch again, Hurricane rose to his full height and hissed. Though cocky around the eagles in Bovei’s class, Shield knew when he was outmatched and hunkered down, emitting supplicating peeps.
Not so his Rider. Mussed and gasping, Bovei pushed himself upright and glared at Lyrai. “What is the meaning of this?” he demanded shakily. “Don’t you know who I am?”
Before Lyrai could answer or dismount, Willym landed. “How dare you treat a student of mine this way!”
“I could say the same of your student with regards to mine!” Lyrai snapped, while Hurricane faced down Mercata, Willym’s miryhl. They were of a size, but Mercata was a slender, light-eyed female. Like her Rider she had a nasty reputation. “How dare he raise a whip to a miryhl. How dare he fly with a crop at all!”
Willym sneered from his mount’s back. “I saw no such incident. All I saw was a lieutenant attacking a student.”
“There are witnesses,” Lyrai growled, even as Hurricane did the same at Mercata.
The female miryhl hissed and her Rider smirked. “Yes. An entire year saw you attack a student, Lyrai. How distressing.”
“They also saw your student strike mine with a whip,” Lyrai retorted, barely controlling his temper. “You know crops are banned, but I can guess where he got such a thing.”
Willym looked at his student and smiled. “I see no whip.”
Lyrai saw red. “I will find it, you vicious bastard, and when I do, your precious whelp will -”
“I believe this is the item in question,” Captain Myran interrupted, limping between their miryhls with the crop held high. “It may also interest you to know that I saw everything.”
Willym stared at the whip and registered the contempt on Myran’s face. He glanced at Fredkhen, lingering unhappily to one side. Though Fredkhen’s family’s livelihood relied heavily on the favour of Willym’s father, the captain would not lie. Baring his teeth in frustration, Willym turned to the boy.
Bovei sat slumped sulkily in his saddle, picking at the reins. He glanced at his lieutenant and flinched. “My father -” he bleated.
“I believe Kern Whittendowns will be most disappointed about this,” Myran said, and the boy cowered. “You will come with me, Student Bovei. Lieutenants return to the eyries. Lyrai, attend Dean Marshall’s office when you are done.”
When nobody moved, the captain raised his eyebrows. “You are dismissed, Riders. Bovei, with me.” He limped away, leaving Lyrai and Willym glaring at each other.
Fredkhen cleared his throat. “Come, Willym. We must tend the miryhls.”
As Mercata turned her head away, Hurricane snorted and launched with no signal from Lyrai. Neither of them wanted to spend a moment longer in that company.
~ Next Chapter ~
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