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~ Previous Chapter ~
Since this isn’t the Tales of Stirla (alas), I wonder what happened to Mhysra, Lyrai and co after they flew into the Stormwash…
MHYSRA WOKE ALONE. She knew it without opening her eyes. The ground beneath her was hard, damp and cold – unpleasant – and all around was silence. Frowning, she lifted her head and squinted at the glare of white surrounding her, then prodded the hard rock she was lying on. No wonder she ached, she thought, rubbing her fingers over the damp surface. Mist crept and curled around her and she struggled to figure out where she was and what had happened. Had they left Misthome already? Were mists like these usual during a Havian winter? Had the lieutenants completely lost their minds?
Growling in frustration, she gripped her head and squeezed her eyes shut, wracking her brain to remember. “Cumulo.” She remembered being with him. Where were they going? She tapped her clenched fist against her forehead, thinking hard. The last thing she could recall was flying in the gloomy dawn with Lieutenant Lyrai —
“And Dhori!” she told the mists triumphantly. They swayed around her, whispering softly.
Ignoring them, she pressed her hands to her temples and pummelled her memory some more. “Cumulo, Lyrai, Dhori,” she murmured. “Flying south.” To where? Where had they been going so early? Had they been infected by some strain of madness? After all, the only thing directly south of Misthome was…
“Maegla,” she whispered, a flood of images playing behind her clenched eyes. Now she remembered. They’d flown into the Stormwash.
The chaos had been enough to stop her heart, ripping her from Cumulo’s back and tossing them both through the air like dolls. The winds had battered her from all directions until she no longer knew whether she was flying or falling. Lightning had struck close enough to burn, while thunder shook her to her bones. She’d been torn apart, scattered wide, then thrown back together all in the space of a heartbeat. Now she was awake and alone, somewhere in the cold, whispering mists.
“Maegla,” she repeated, then cautiously pushed to her feet, patting her body in search of the injuries that simply weren’t there. It was miraculous, unless… “Am I dead?”
“HURRICANE! DHORI! MHYSRA!” Lyrai cupped his hands around his mouth, shouting over the pounding rain. Each drop was a whipping sting against his exposed skin, bruising even through his clothes. Shaking his head to clear his eyes, he looked around the rain-drenched emptiness. “Corin! Jaymes!”
Only the rain answered, but he stumbled across the pitted ground anyway. He might have been blown off course, but he was a lieutenant and refused to lose his students. Or his miryhl. “Hurricane!”
Over the hammering of the storm, a distant call reached his ears. Spinning towards it, Lyrai lost his footing on the loose stones. Catching himself with one hand, he took a deep breath and yelled, “Hurricane!”
The sound came again, a faint cry, so he stumbled in search of it. Even when the stones slid away and threw him to his knees he kept going. Not even the thundering rain could stop him now. He was a lieutenant, and he refused to remain alone.
Until the ground vanished and night leapt up to embrace him.
“JAYMES?” CORIN WHISPERED, turning in the darkness that clung to her like a cloak, searching for the distant, elusive voice she’d heard. Rocks were firm under her hands, but she couldn’t see them. A gentle rain whispered over the rough ground, but it was the only sound apart from her breathing. “Wisp?”
Nothing, only the rain. She was alone.
“Anybody?” she called, raising her voice. “Is there anybody there?”
The darkness rippled, then the wind hit her with enough force to throw her backwards. No rocks rushed up to meet her and she fell screaming into the abyss.
THE WIND HOWLED in Jaymes’ face as he struggled to walk. Behind lay empty mists, ahead were rocks and cliffs. There wasn’t much to choose between the two, but forward always seemed more attractive than going back. So he pushed into the face of the wind, defying the storm that tried to hold him down. With every step his legs grew heavier, his body wearier, his clothing wetter, but he would not give in.
“I won’t,” he growled. “You can’t stop me.”
Lightning spat above his head, striking sparks in his hair and dancing shocks across his skin. But not even the heavy snarl of the thunder, pushing him down like a giant hand, could make him stop. Balling his fists, he turned side on to the roaring winds and sidled along the cliff face, until the storm twisted and spun him about, trying to confuse him into losing his bearings.
“I won’t,” he vowed, and the thunder growled. Winds shoved his shoulders, but he held his ground and leant into the gusts. “You can’t stop me!”
Lightning sparked, heat flashed and burning filled his mouth and nose, before the force of the strike lifted him clean off his feet, throwing him away from the cliff into the maw of the storm.
LYRAI LANDED WITH a grunt. The ground gave oddly under his weight, grasping and cushioning him, rather than breaking every bone in his body. It still knocked the wind out of him and he lay breathless, waiting for the world to become clear again.
White mist crept into the hollow his landing had made, curling around an ankle and brushing against his face. With it came a soft, gentle rain and he shifted onto his side to catch the drops in his mouth. It was warm and metallic, but welcome. After the downpour, this was sweet and his throat felt parched as if he’d been screaming for days. He might have, he couldn’t remember.
All he remembered was that he wasn’t supposed to be alone – and yet he was. In a hollow canyon, between two steep cliffs. Nothing but him, the mist, the rain and the rocks. The rain fell harder, tapping his face and chest like little drumming fingers. It was starting to hurt, so he gathered his weary strength and rolled onto his knees. Lightning flickered and the rain fell harder. Thunder growled like a grumpy bear, but he welcomed the noise. He didn’t feel so alone that way.
A distant scream brought his head up, and he twisted.
“Mhysra?” he murmured, remembering why he was there, who he’d been looking for. “Corin?”
Where he had gone.
The storm exploded overhead.
“MUST FIND CUE, must find Cue, must find Cue.” Mhysra shuffled through the featureless mists, refusing to think about being dead. There were many stories about what a person could expect once they passed through Typhaestus’ hands, but she’d never paid much attention. She was seventeen years old, by the gods, she wasn’t supposed to think about the afterlife yet. Although as a Rift-Rider-in-training she probably should have listened a time or two.
“Bit bloody late now,” she grumbled, not happy that even her thoughts were babbling. The mist unnerved her, hanging around in a whispering curtain. Surely the whispering wasn’t normal. Then again, she wasn’t sure any of this was normal. She remembering falling from Cumulo and screaming, on and on, but she didn’t remember hitting the ground. Such a fall would have broken something, if not killed her outright…
“I’m not dead,” she said firmly, shaking her head against the insidious thoughts that were as crafty at creeping as the surrounding mists. “I have to find Cue first.”
Although if she really were dead, it was likely Cumulo would have followed her into the hereafter, so he would be close by anyway.
“Stop it!” she snapped, scowling at the mists. “I am not macabre. I do not think morbid thoughts. Stop putting them there. Go whisper at someone else.”
A bolt of lightning ripped open the sky and something heavy knocked her to the ground.
THE FALLER NO longer screamed. Lyrai sprinted as fast as the broken ground would allow, blinking furiously every time the brilliant lightning threatened to blind him. He didn’t bother shouting, saving his breath for the run, as the incessant thunder drowned out everything but the pounding rain.
Lightning struck the walls of the canyon, rattling the loose stones and sending them raining down. Ducking between them, he was almost knocked off his feet as the oppressive thunder rolled. Though it felt like hot hands had a hold of his lungs and were squeezing inwards, he didn’t let it slow him. The faller was still going, the scraps of her cloak fluttering around her limp body. He wasn’t going to make it, no matter how fast he ran. He was never going to catch her.
Thunder and lightning shattered the sky – and she hit the ground.
The storm held its breath as Lyrai stumbled, righted himself, stumbled again and fell to his knees. Everything waited as he crawled the last few feet towards his student, despairing at what he would find.
“Corin,” he whispered, recognising her small frame and dark hair as rain tapped gently on her outstretched hand. “Corin.”
Lightning flickered, her fingers twitched and she turned a whole, uninjured face towards him. “Sir? What’s going on?”
Thunder chuckled overhead.
~ Next Chapter ~
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