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~ Previous Chapter ~
We’re in the final two chapters, things are heating up, so of course there are cliffhangers. As always, if you hate them and don’t want to be left hanging, you might want to come back in a few weeks when the whole book is over :)
For those who can’t wait and don’t mind hanging… Lyrai’s in a spot of bother.
SILENCE FELL OVER the Moot. A human, not even six foot tall, against a young dragon of twenty-five plus feet, armed not only with jewel-hard scales but venomous fangs. It was something out of legend, from before the clouds cursed the world, when humans and dragon were bitter enemies.
Lyrai stared at the juvenile dragon and saw the tension in his muscles, waiting to pounce and wipe him from this world. But it wasn’t the sleek power or size that held Lyrai’s attention, nor those slit-pupil eyes narrowed so intently, it was the mark above his eyebrow. The unsightly scar that marred the emerald perfection. The size of a single scale.
As one dragons, Riders and miryhls breathed in, Lyrai included.
Hurricane stood at his back, trembling but proud, beak high, eyes narrowed. “The insult came from my talons, therefore I too shall answer. It is only right the challenged should be mounted against so oversized a foe.”
Jarvenerald’s nostrils and eyes flared with affront as he crouched, lip disdainfully lifting to reveal a glistening fang. “Your mount’s tongue is unruly, human. Perhaps I should remove it.”
The dragon sprang, scattering pebbles, Riders and miryhls.
“Lyrai!” Hurricane shrieked, launching to avoid the attack and leaving his Rider behind.
Ducking to avoid the fray, Lyrai looked up as Jarvenerald’s gaping maw raced towards him.
Mesmerised by the perfect gold beads dripping from the dragon’s fangs, he froze as his fate rushed towards him.
A buffet of wind hit his back and Lyrai recovered his senses as he struck the rocky beach.
Just beyond his boots, Jarvenerald plough face-first into the same stones, vanishing beneath as easily as if it had been water. Overhead, Hurricane banked and turned, ready for another pass, while Jaymes ran to check his lieutenant.
“Are you all right, sir?”
“No,” Lyrai replied, trembling at how close death had been. “But I’m alive.”
The pebbles shifted under their feet, forcing them to scramble back as the dragon emerged from the beach with a roar.
A high scream made Lyrai turn.
His bonded dived, talons outstretched, hitting the dragon full in the face.
The dragon recoiled, but the miryhl clung fast with beak and talons, battering his foe with his wings. The other miryhls shrieked and dived around him, attacking Jarvenerald’s wings and sides. A jade and emerald tail lashed out, hitting the cliff and clipping Wisp’s wing. Corin lurched as her miryhl spun around, dropping her bow but managing to stay put, while Cumulo dived. On his back, Mhysra caught the bow and tossed it back, leaving Lyrai wondering when the girls had found time to mount.
Argon landed beside them in a flurry of stones, lowering his wing to his Rider. “On!”
Jaymes hesitated, looking at his lieutenant.
“Go,” he ordered. “You’re safer in the air. Go, I’ll be fine.”
Still, the student hesitated, clearly torn about leaving Lyrai alone and vulnerable as the dragons on the terraces stirred.
“Now!” Argon shouted, and took off the instant Jaymes’ weight hit his back.
Which left Lyrai grounded and alone, while five miryhls and four students took on the challenge meant for one.
With Hurricane still clinging to his face, Jarvenerald snapped his head from side to side with brutal force. Though sharp, not even miryhl talons could find much purchase on such tightly packed scales.
With a final wrench and a roar, Jarvenerald threw off his attacker. Wings tangling at the force of the throw, Hurricane barrelled through the air in a mass of feathers —
And hit the cliffs with a sickening thud.
* * *
The words, a bare whisper in the dark, pulled Mouse out of sleep. He squinted at the silhouette by the fire: Dean Marshall was talking to himself again.
“Can you feel it?”
Or perhaps not.
“I was asleep,” Mouse said, yawning. “What’s happening?”
“I’m not sure,” the dean replied, turning as something scratched at the door. “The guards.”
Mouse huddled in his bed at the warning hiss. They didn’t see their guards often, just enough to know that they were out there. Not pirates or traitors, but kaz-naghkt. They looked at him with hunger in their eyes, promising to put his pain and uselessness to an end anytime he wished. It wasn’t their menace that scared him, it was the temptation.
A shriek in the hallway was roughly curtailed and the door burst open.
Wild-eyed and keening, black blood spurting from its chest, a kaz-naghkt staggered inside and fell on the bed.
Mouse yelped and flinched, hitting his head on the wall with a crack. Even as the world dimmed and his stomach roiled, he had enough sense to throw a blanket over the rampaging beast.
It entangled itself with a snarl of frustration, scrabbling blindly to free itself as Mouse scurried backwards on his hands and fell on the floor. He didn’t care how undignified it looked to crawl away from his enemy, just as long as he lived. That was all he wanted, he finally realised. To survive. To make Nehtl’s sacrifice worth something.
He hid under the bed.
Over his head, the creature alternately keened and growled, claws and teeth catching in blankets and bedding as it flailed helplessly about. By the fireplace, Dean Marshall held a chair ready to bash the kaz-naghkt with should it make any wrong moves. Still blind, it showed no interest in the dean and continued bumping against the wall.
Taking a chance, Mouse dragged himself from under the bed and crawled rapidly across the floor, just as a figure filled the doorway.
Mouse’s stifled cry had the dean swinging around, chair in hands.
A bow creaked, the string twanged and arrow met flesh in a sickening thud.
The kaz-naghkt screamed and with a last punch, smashed through the window to topple out into the night.
Breathless, stunned and still a little disorientated from hitting his head, Mouse stared incredulously at the figure in the doorway.
Silveo gave him a weak smile. “If the target’s big enough, even I can’t fail to hit it.” He blinked at the black blood smeared across the floor and wall and jagged window glass. “I’ve never shot anything before,” he said calmly, and promptly fainted.
~ Next Chapter ~
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