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 between Chapter 12 and 13 of Wingborn, this is a brief glimpse into eyrie life – and how Cumulo and Hurricane felt on first encountering each other.
Of course, Cumulo takes it all in his calm, laid-back style… ha! Only joking, of course he doesn’t!
28th Fledgling 786 CE
CUMULO WAS RIGHT in the middle of one of his favourite anecdotes about how he’d once faced down and chased off a wild bullwing bull – though it’s possibly that it wasn’t entirely wild, and the face-off might have arisen because Cumulo had spooked the herd, but details, details – when he first noticed the silence.
Not that silence was necessarily a bad thing. Cumulo loved to wow an audience with his stories, and since his arrival in Nimbys he’d managed this feat on more than one occasion. Which was no small thing, considering his audience consisted of real Rift Rider miryhls, of which he was the youngest by a fair margin. Then again, he was Wingborn, so of course he was a natural leader and superior in every possible way. He was also born at Wrentheria, which made him adventurous and competent in all measures.
But it wasn’t just the silence. No, far worse than an eyrie of silent miryhls, Cumulo had lost their attention.
Allowing his voice to trail off mid-sentence, he craned his head around towards the door to see what all the others were staring at.
Two miryhls. The one on the left was familiar: plain brown and of a middling size for a female. Though she wasn’t entirely impressive to look at, Breeze commanded respect, partly through her age and experience, but mostly because she was Captain Myran’s bonded partner. Even Cumulo had to respect a Rider pair that had been in existence longer than he and Mhysra had been alive and who had a reputation for being completely solid, unflappable and honourable, even through injury.
Only it wasn’t Breeze who’d caught everyone’s attention – it the miryhl who stood beside her.
It was hard to make out much about the stranger, since the light was shining behind them, but Cumulo squinted at the glare cast off the new miryhl’s feathers and already felt himself bristling. The bird was bigger than him and strangely pale.
“Everyone!” Breeze raised her voice just enough to be heard in every corner of the eyrie. “Meet Hurricane.”
The new bird stepped forward and Cumulo wasn’t the only one to gasp.
A marble miryhl. Such a rare and strange thing. Cream and brown and black, mottled and patterned in a way that should never have been so beautiful.
Cumulo’s crest feathers rose, trembling ever so slightly. This eyrie already had a Wingborn – it didn’t need a marble miryhl as well. Too many marvels spoilt the awe.
Seemingly oblivious to the shock her companion’s appearance had caused, Breeze tilted her head towards Hurricane and gave an approving nod. “Lieutenant Lyrai’s new bonded.”
Cumulo’s wings sagged in stunned disbelief and a startled murmur shivered around the eyries.
Crackling her beak with amusement, Breeze looked around at the fuss until her dark-gold eyes finally settled on Cumulo. “I trust you will all make him feel welcome.”
Not in this lifetime. Hustling his wings back into place, Cumulo straightened up and raised his head before anyone noticed his loss of composure.
He was Wingborn, big for his age and with plenty of growing still left to do: he would always be the most impressive eagle in the eyrie. Even one with marble miryhls and officers’ birds in residence.
Not even Lieutenant Lyrai’s new bonded would change that. Cumulo wouldn’t let him.
“A LITTLE DIFFERENT to what you’re used to, I expect?”
Hurricane stared around at the eyrie with wide eyes and barely managed to nod at Breeze’s amused question. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected while travelling in the hull of the Thorncrest on the way to Nimbys, but it hadn’t been this. All his life, growing up on a small, secluded farm at the far end of South Imercian, Hurricane had been told about Nimbys and the Choice. Raised alongside his clutch mates, he’d learnt from a very early age that his destiny was to become a Rift Rider one day. To be chosen from the flock on the Day of Choice, partnered with one particular human and spend his life defending the Overworld against the scourge of the kaz-naghkt.
Well, he’d already messed that up by refusing to enter the rickety structure that the humans had laughingly called an eyrie. Hurricane wasn’t stupid. He had no wish to die in the middle of the night because a mild wind had blown through the valley and knocked the whole thing down on his head. Not that it really mattered. He already knew he was different, strange and doing everything wrong.
Travelling north on a small, drafty skyship before being transferred onto the Thorncrest, Hurricane had quickly learnt that he was odd-looking, different, strange and not necessarily in a good way. Humans pointed at him and muttered words behind their hands that they didn’t think he could hear. Other young miryhls shuffled away from him, uncertain whether he was sick and contagious or just strange.
Having always been the biggest of his brood, Hurricane had been praised and admired all his life. Back home his strange pale feathers had gone unnoticed in a flock of similar-looking birds. Perhaps his markings had been a little bolder than his fellow fledglings, his pale patches a little brighter, but back home that had been a good thing and it had been the brown miryhls that were strange and different and worth staring at.
Not here. Here he was the strangest of the strange, being stared at by an eyrie full of glossy brown, bronze and black birds, and he was the untidy stranger. Again.
It had taken time to win over the friendship and confidence of his fellow young miryhls on board the Thorncrest. They’d eventually found common ground in their nerves over what was to come and their homesickness. He’d made friends with the small and weak ones, those overlooked by others for being different or less than perfect. It was the first time in his life that Hurricane had been deemed less, but he’d adapted quickly enough. His size had made him an object of jealousy amongst some, his mottled feathers a subject of ridicule to others, but he’d risen above it, confident that his good qualities would still shine through when the Choice came.
Then he’d arrived in Nimbys.
He’d never seen a city before, had never imagined so many houses or people could exist all clustered together in such a way. Flying above the streets with the rest of the miryhls, he’d been overwhelmed to be part of such a large flock. Everything was too noisy, the air tasted different, the smaller birds had crowded against him and he’d struggled to find a space to land on the field below.
Where the temporary eyrie was waiting.
The other birds had been so excited and nervous that they’d allowed themselves to be herded straight into the death trap.
Hurricane had refused.
Rift Riders had converged to coax him. Already nervy and overwhelmed, there had been too many people trying to get close to him. He’d panicked and lashed out – so they’d tried to move him by force.
That hadn’t gone well. Nothing about this journey north had gone well.
Which was how he’d ended up half-bound, flat on the floor, snarling and slashing like a wild beast. All his training, all his dreams, everything that he’d ever learnt and known had flown straight out the hatch. All Hurricane had known was panic and fear.
Until he came.
He had gentle hands and a soft voice. He’d been patient and calm. He’d treated Hurricane as an equal, not an animal. He’d set Hurricane free.
It wasn’t how the Choice was supposed to go, but it worked for them. Hurricane could feel it deep down, the sense of rightness settling inside. Lyrai was his.
And he was lieutenant, which really was the gilding on the primary.
Reminded that he’d been chosen already and was now an officer’s miryhl, Hurricane raised his head.
Let them think him funny looking, let them look down their golden beaks at him: it didn’t matter. He was Lieutenant Lyrai’s bonded and he was here to stay.
Breeze chuckled beside him. She was an older eagle and had kind eyes. She didn’t look at him as if he was some odd curiosity. Then again, as a captain’s miryhl, she’d probably seen far worse and stranger things than him in her long life.
“Come,” she urged in her low, quiet voice. “There are some miryhls I wish you to meet.”
I only split this in two because it’s a bit much to read all at once.
But if you do want to read it all at once, then…
Thanks for reading!