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.
Part One was Cumulo’s take on things, now it’s Hurricane’s turn to meet the Wingborn.
BREEZE STRUTTED THROUGH the eyries, confident without arrogance. She didn’t need to preen and fuss or puff herself up to show everyone how important she was. All she had to do was walk and the rest moved aside.
Hurricane tilted his head and watched her move. There was nothing exceptional about her feathers or form, but an invisible mantle surrounded her anyway. Maegla, he wanted to be Breeze when he grew up.
Skipping a few paces to catch up, he followed Breeze down the main aisle to a back corner, aware of the whispers rustling in his wake. He kept his head high, though, and tried not to listen too closely to the words. What few he couldn’t help but overhear sounded curious and complimentary rather than cruel, but he shook them off anyway. A swollen head would be just as damaging as a crushed spirit in the long run.
“Here.” Breeze paused before an impressive looking group, containing two of the largest and shiniest miryhls Hurricane had ever seen.
One was a female who was even bigger than himself. She was pure bronze, with black-edged wings and deep brown eyes that assed him carefully before she shuffled her enormous wings against her back.
“Lyrai’s bonded?” she rumbled, her voice deep and soothing.
Swallowing hard, Hurricane nodded, suddenly feeling his youth and inexperience compared to these birds. The other miryhls he’d met so far had been as young and foolish as himself, but these were Rift Riders, real Riders, with years of partnership beneath their wings. Hurricane had never even carried a human on his back before, only dummies filled with sand.
“I’m Atyrn, Lieutenant Stirla’s bonded.” She leant forward and tapped her golden beak against his. “Welcome to Nimbys. We’ll be seeing rather a lot of each other.”
Hurricane crackled his beak and felt the tiny feathers below his eyes rise with embarrassment. Beak taps were nothing, just a casual mark of affection and friendship. But Atyrn was a lieutenant’s bonded. She’d beak tapped him! He scratched at the floor with his talons and muttered something incomprehensible, suddenly shy in the big female’s presence. She’d been with her lieutenant for years already and now he was her equal.
Breeze huffed softly and Atyrn gave a low chuckle.
“And this is Cumulo,” his fellow lieutenant miryhl said, drawing Hurricane’s attention back up from the floor. “He’s even younger than you but, as you can see, just as overgrown.”
Hurricane stared at the glossy brown miryhl, whose feathers perfectly matched the ripe conkers of autumn, and tilted his head. Though just a fraction smaller than himself, this Cumulo was broader in the chest and much more muscular in the wings. Gold shimmered across those same wings as he shuffled them beneath Hurricane’s assessing gaze.
How could this miryhl be younger than himself? Hurricane wasn’t yet twenty years old and had learnt from others on the Thorncrest that he was considered rather young for a male headed to the Choice.
Cumulo straightened up, raising his head as high as it could go, bringing them eye to eye. “I am Wingborn,” he announced defiantly.
Hurricane blinked. Wingborn? He’d heard the stories and rumours and deemed them nonsense. Such a thing could never exist, and even if it did, it couldn’t be anything like as amazing as the legends made them sound.
He studied Cumulo again, seeing how fit and shiny the young male was, and how he already fit alongside the other miryhls, making Hurricane feel weak and skinny by comparison.
He stared his fellow youngster in the eye, reading an uncertainty there that matched his own. A Wingborn was surely as much of a curiosity as a marble miryhl, and likely just as big a target for jealousy as a freshly matched lieutenant’s bonded. They were both new to this life, both strangers in an eyrie full of old acquaintances.
Hurricane relaxed. “Well met, Cumulo,” he greeted, wondering if he dared beak tap his newest friend.
Cumulo bristled a little, drawing back at the slightest forward movement on Hurricane’s part.
Ah, no beak tap then. Maybe later.
Finding himself the focus of both Breeze and Atyrn – not to mention many others in the eyrie – Cumulo huffed. “Well met, Hurricane,” he growled begrudgingly, his golden eyes glowering resentfully at the newest member of the eyries.
Not two days ago, Hurricane would have backed away from such potential hostility, taking himself off to find friends elsewhere. Not this time. He was a lieutenant’s bonded now, he belonged in this eyrie.
Besides, despite their short acquaintance, it was obvious that Cumulo was young and prideful: Hurricane’s arrival had tweaked his tail out of alignment. It would be up to him to reassure the younger male that he was still special and important. It would be a lieutenantly thing to do.
Under the amused gazes of Breeze and Atyrn, Hurricane sidled his way through the group of smaller birds until he was beside Cumulo. Settling down close – but not too close – to the other miryhl, he tilted his head towards him and said, “I’ve never met a Wingborn before.”
Cumulo eyed him suspiciously. “Of course not. We’ve never met before.”
Breeze turned away with an unconvincing sneeze, while Atyrn suddenly developed a fascination for her talons.
Hurricane kept his own laugh inside his chest, letting it warm him as he shifted a little closer to his new friend. “Tell me, is it every bit as good as the stories?” he asked, allowing a bit of his natural scepticism into his tone to temper the sense of awe.
Cumulo narrowed his eyes. “It’s better,” he said shortly. “Flying with Mhysra is everything to me. As I’m sure you’ll find out once you finally carry Lyrai on your back.”
A prickle of possessiveness rippled down Hurricane’s spine at the casual use of his bonded’s name. Of course every miryhl in this eyrie knew his Lyrai better than he did. He would still be the only one to fly with him, though.
Watching him carefully, Cumulo crackled his beak smugly, having evidently noticed the effect his words had had. “Sixteen years we’ve been together, my Mhysra and I. Our partnership is perfect.”
Hurricane sighed wistfully, unable to imagine spending so long with any one human. Lyrai already felt like his and they’d barely met. “I can’t wait.”
Cumulo studied him carefully for a long moment. Then he slowly, cautiously, spread his wing enough to nudge against Hurricane’s. “So…” he began gruffly. “Lyrai, eh? How did that happen? The Choice isn’t until tomorrow. Wanted to stand out and be different, did you?”
It was Hurricane’s turn to feel smug, though he knew better than to let it show. He’d make a friend out of this eagle yet. “With a Wingborn in this eyrie? I haven’t a chance.”
Which was evidently the perfect thing to say as Cumulo’s back straightened once more, his golden eyes glinting with pride. “True,” he acknowledged, a faint chuckle in his tone. “But you make an impressive second. I can just imagine what you and Lyrai will look like at sunrise. Him all golden, you all… whatever you are.”
For the first time since leaving home, Hurricane chuckled at a comment upon his looks. Was it possible that Cumulo was a little jealous of his marble feathers? Well, Hurricane was more than a little jealous of Cumulo’s long partnership with his Wingborn and his prior knowledge of Lyrai, so they were even. “I think I’m going to like it here,” he announced.
Cumulo scoffed with amusement. “Wait until you meet the students first,” he advised. “You may wish to change your mind.”
“Never,” Hurricane said, feeling the truth of it down to his bones. This was where he was meant to be, with these miryhls, with these Riders. Here was home.
Atyrn leant forward and beak tapped him again. “Good.”
Hurricane ruffled his feathers with pleasure, even as Cumulo huffed beside him.
Atyrn beak tapped him too. “Behave, Cue,” she ordered.
He sniffed and tilted his head pointedly away from both her and Hurricane, towards where the rest of the group of miryhls had been watching them with amusement. “Where was I?” he announced loudly.
A small, black male ruffled his feathers and piped up eagerly, “Somewhere up a mountainside facing off against a raging wild bullwing bull, who was about to charge you down and eviscerate you and your Wingborn.”
Hurricane jerked his head back and caught Atyrn’s eye. “But -” he began, until Atyrn’s wink silenced him. Maybe things were different in the north and they had wild bullwings here. In South Imercian, though, they were far too valuable to be allowed to escape – and they’d never charge down a miryhl without having been challenged first.
Ignoring any hint of an interruption, Cumulo puffed up his chest importantly. “Thank you, Kerron, I remember now. So there we were, my Wingborn and I, facing down certain death…”
As the young miryhl settled into his grandiose tale of bravery and danger, Hurricane nestled beside him and let his mind drift. It had been rather a long day, almost as exciting as Cumulo’s tale was turning out to be.
Amused, Hurricane fluffed up his feathers, humming with contentment as Atyrn roosted beside him. Two lieutenant miryhls together in the Rift Rider eyrie, right where Hurricane belonged. It certainly wasn’t where he’d expected to end his day when he’d woken up that morning, but he wasn’t about to complain.
Especially not when Cumulo finally finished his tail and huddled alongside him. A Wingborn on one side, a lieutenant miryhl on the other: Hurricane had definitely gone up in the world.
“Welcome to Nimbys,” Cumulo muttered, now that most of the eyrie was asleep and few would hear him.
Hurricane heard, though, and sleepily reached over to tap his beak against the younger miryhl’s. “Good to meet you too, friend.”
Huffing, Cumulo hunched down and rumbled a low growl in his chest. “I barely know you, stranger,” he grumbled.
Hurricane just chuckled and pressed his wing against the Wingborn. He might not have won Cumulo over completely just yet, but they’d get there. Friendship was inevitable. Hurricane would make certain of it.
PERCHED AT THE top of the eyries, Breeze looked down over her sleeping flight and nodded with satisfaction. Lyrai was mounted again and young Cumulo had a real challenger in Hurricane. Their friendship and rivalry would settle them both down, helping them to find their rightful places in the Riders.
All was good.
Closing her eyes, Breeze settled down to sleep, confident that all had gone well for another day. She couldn’t wait to tell her Myran all about it in the morning.
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