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~ Previous Chapter ~
Fresh trouble and a sort-of answer to an older mystery.
THE STARS HAD clouded over when Lyrai woke, aching from the cold. Mhysra muttered a complaint as his movements shifted the cloak off her face. Whispering an apology, he tucked her more firmly against his side and stifled a groan. Falling asleep outside at the start of Blizzard Month was not clever. Even in Havia. That didn’t explain what had woken him, though. Frowning, he blinked as the Stormwash exploded with a particularly showy display. Though it hurt his eyes, he didn’t think that was what had disturbed him.
A shadow moved across the meadow. Careful not to disturb Mhysra, he sat up and waited for more lightning.
Two miryhl-shaped shadows, each with a Rider on its back. Lyrai cursed.
“Who is it?” Mhysra asked, awake and alert beside him.
“I’m not sure.”
Now she was up, Lyrai felt no guilt in hopping off their rock. Before he could move far, she threw his cloak over his shoulders and wrapped herself in the blanket they’d been sitting on. It was a tricky path in the deep darkness and, before they were even halfway, the miryhls took off, spiralling shapes silhouetted against the flickering Stormwash. The lightning strikes were almost constant now, so Lyrai took advantage of the light to run.
Dhori met them at the door.
“What happened?” Lyrai demanded, finding nothing unusual in expecting him to know.
“It’s Corin and Jaymes.”
“Corin and Jaymes?” Lyrai echoed incredulously.
“Why?” Mhysra questioned.
Lyrai shook his head before Dhori could answer. “Never mind that,” he growled, fetching his bags from where he’d dropped them near the door. “Where have they gone?”
Dhori grimaced as he followed Lyrai to Hurricane’s side. “You won’t believe me.”
“The Stormwash,” he answered reluctantly. “They’ve been called.”
“Called?” Mhysra repeated, while Lyrai was too stunned for words.
“Called,” Dhori confirmed. “To the Dragonlands. They’re going to cross the Stormwash.”
Lyrai dropped his bags and rested his forehead against Hurricane’s wing. “Then we’d better stop them.”
* * *
THE SUN SHONE brightly over Aquila, blinding on the thick, heavy snows that covered the mountain. Yullik stared moodily at the view, uncaring that tears of strain were gathering in his eyes. His body may have been in the tower room, but his mind was elsewhere. Far to the west, searching for answers. Why, after two months of successful dream-walking, was the Wingborn able to evade him now?
He could still feel her mind, could still sense her presence, but there was no access for him. He could no longer see her thoughts, no longer slide inside her dreams and gather the information he needed. His grip on her had loosened. He could no longer stop her from talking.
Fists bunched and teeth clenched, Yullik’s mind searched and searched. Like a nakhound on the scent of downed and wounded prey, he drifted through the air, tracing her last known thoughts and locations. He was getting close; he could feel her desperation. Was she running from him? Had she finally realised the truth?
A shadow rose up, but he was so focused on his prey he almost missed it. Almost.
A short, sharp shock rippled through his thoughts and he looked up. Mhysra was swallowed by the shadow, and it was only with a twist and a wrench that Yullik avoided the same.
He landed back in his body with a lurch that sent him tumbling clumsily to the floor. His skull cracked against hard stone and blood filled his mouth as he bit his tongue. He hissed, clenching his eyes shut as the backlash seared white fire through his brain. His nails bit into his palms, his knuckles cracked beneath the strain as his body quivered with the force of defying the shudders and seizures.
Show nothing. Keep it all inside. Reveal no weaknesses.
The words rippled through him from the deepest recesses of memory, and he clung to his shredded control with all that was in him. Eventually the fit passed and he sagged against the stone floor, exhausted. His head tipped to one side as his cheek pressed against the stone, warm from where his energy had seeped into the world around him. The scent of blood filled the air, dripping from the cuts in his palms, but he ignored it as his shoulders relaxed and his joints unlocked.
All was well. He had come through unscathed. No one had been around to see.
Double checking, in case his mind had been too damaged to register any intruders, Yullik opened his eyes and rolled to his side. Empty. The room was as he’d last seen it before he sent his mind wandering far from his body.
The reminder made him frown and he did a quick internal check, searching for the ever-present shadow that was his connection to Mhysra Kilpapan. Nothing.
“No.” He looked again, deeper, ripping through the other shadows he’d collected over time.
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing.
Mhysra Kilpapan, the only Wingborn he’d found left on this cursed Overworld, was gone. As cleanly as if she had never been connected to him.
“No!” He wouldn’t believe it, he couldn’t. Not after all the work and energy he’d poured into following her over recent months. She was his, her and that miryhl. Their Wingborn bond was his, his alone to do with as he willed. They would never be free of him, unless he willed it.
Ignoring the protesting throb from his bruised brain, Yullik shut his eyes and sent his mind out again. He flew over the empty leagues of the Cloud Sea, arrowed over the mountains of Havia, centred his focus on Misthome and picked up traces of her. Gathering them like gold nuggets in a rushing stream, he sped southwards, picking up speed as the scent grew fresh.
With all the force of sprinting into a glass wall, Yullik hit the shadow. The shock was enough to rip him from his wandering, throwing him back into his body. This time he had no cares for the backlash. The pain, the thrashing, the weakness was nothing to him.
His quarry was gone to the one place he couldn’t follow. Inside the Stormwash.
Into the Dragonlands.
Memories laughed at him from centuries past, taunting him with all that he was, all that he wanted, all that he could never be. He slammed his bleeding fist into the glowing floor and roared. Stone cracked, glass shattered and heat engulfed the east tower as everything exploded in a wash of golden light.
~ Next Chapter ~
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