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~ Previous Chapter ~
Just hanging out with Rhiddyl.
THE MIDDAY SUN beat down overhead, reflecting brightly off the roiling clouds below. The rich blue curve of the horizon stretched over the edge of the world, interspersed with jagged peaks and crumbling cliffs. Far below Rhiddyl, and safely away from any interference from her wings, the miryhls and vulardis flew in a v-formation, one wing-length apart, flapping only when necessary. Tiny shadows raced after them across the white expanse below, adding to the strangeness of the day.
It wasn’t what Rhiddyl was used to, but she could see the beauty in it. A smattering of ordinary clouds passed between her and her travelling companions and she dipped to enjoy the chill across her scales. Under the bright sun she didn’t stay cool for long, even at such an altitude.
“And how are you finding the Overworld?”
Rhiddyl looked down at the vulardi soaring just below her chest and offered a front foot to the silk-clad passenger. Reglian looked thoughtful before raising his arms to allow Rhiddyl to pluck him from his mount. The vulardi squawked, craning her head back over her shoulder to see what was happening.
“Ah, that’s easier,” Reglian murmured, oblivious of the miles of empty space below as he walked along Rhiddyl’s arm and tucked himself into the crook of her elbow. “No need to shout so loudly from here.”
Rhiddyl hummed in agreement, shooing the confused vulardi away. “It is strange, but I like it,” she said, answering the original question. “Does it appear much changed to you?”
“Not as such,” Reglian said, wriggling to get more comfortable. “But then I was never that familiar with the world across the border. I had forgotten how small it all seems.”
Rhiddyl chuckled, spreading her wings to soar even higher above the cloud-line to where the sun was always shining. On such a fine day there were barely any clouds between them and the world below. Though she felt a little breathless from the reduced air, the sheer freedom made it worth the effort. “It seems large enough to me.”
“And yet our friends grow ever smaller,” Reglian pointed out, and Rhiddyl squinted at the specks below.
“Size is not everything,” she replied, flexing her front claws to dislodge the gathering frost. Her thoughts awoke an old curiosity. “Do you ever feel cramped in your human shape? Do you not miss your wings?” Brushing the ice off her nose, she dropped lower. “Do you grow colder more quickly, as humans do?”
Reglian rumbled softly. “Do not descend for my comfort, young Rhidystel. I am able to withstand the highest altitudes. Though I may appear human, I remain a dragon, capable of regulating my body temperature. As for cramps and missing wings, well, I have had many years to practise this form and I am quite comfortable. Not that I plan to remain this size forever, but it does have some advantages.”
Rhiddyl wrinkled her nose, cracking off more ice, unable to imagine any advantages in comparison to the dragon form. “Does it not chafe? You have been human-sized for days. Do you not miss the wind?”
“Hmm,” Reglian murmured thoughtfully, shifting his weight on Rhiddyl’s arm. “Perhaps. I do sometimes find myself stretching inside this skin, testing the wings that are not present. As for the wind, I can still taste it, even if the flavours are muted and different. Many things are different in human form, but I remain a dragon, no matter my size. You must remember that when your own change time comes. You are always a dragon, whatever size, shape or species you choose to assume.”
Rhiddyl fell thoughtfully silent, skimming lower until she rejoined the others, gliding just above them. Their flight had brought them close to the mountains of Mistrune again, and she studied the clusters of human dwellings with interest.
“I must admit that I would dearly like to go inside with the rest of you come nightfall,” she sighed, finding at least one advantage to human-form. “I like the vulardis and miryhls, of course, but I do not fit in with them. I am too big, too different, too much a dragon. It is strange, since I am used to living alone, but I think if one must be lonely it is preferable not to be so in the middle of a crowd.”
Reglian patted his leg consolingly. “I will bear that in mind,” he promised, looking for his vulardi. “For now, I think you had best put me back in my saddle. I believe we are stopping.”
Rhiddyl heaved a sigh, but did as she was bid. The leading miryhls were definitely slowing. After such an easy flight, Rhiddyl was far from tired, even with the baggage net dragging clumsily beneath her, but the eagles were so much smaller. She had to make allowances.
Feeling overlarge and left out, she waited for everyone else to land and make a space for her before dropping down to join them. She had been told the Overworld was different, but the only strange thing around here was herself. With another sigh, she unhooked her net and curled up out of the way, trying not to draw attention. The crowd bustled around her, and she picked sadly at her tail. Perhaps she shouldn’t have come. She’d been so excited at the chance to cross the barrier. To see the Overworld and meet more humans. She’d hoped it would be fun. Of course she had been warned of the dangers, but nobody had warned about the loneliness.
“All done at last.”
Rhiddyl lifted her head, surprised to find Lieutenant Lyrai standing before her, with Corin, Jaymes and the dragonets. They all smiled, settling in front of her as the dragonets scurried onto her back. Their shrill chirrups turned to excited squeaks as she trapped them playfully between her wings before rolling them out onto the grass.
“So what do you think of the Overworld?” Corin asked, as Mhysra, Dhori and Reglian joined them, carrying refilled water bottles, a bag of summer fruits and some travel biscuits.
Looking at them all, Rhiddyl basked in the warmth of their friendship, tossed a dragonet on her wing and hummed happily. “It gets better all the time.”
~ Next Chapter ~
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