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~ Previous Chapter ~
Short and sweet update today, but no cliffhangers – promise!
SUNLIGHT FILTERED THROUGH the trees, shining on the mist drifting between the trunks. Overhead the broad-leafed canopy cast dappled shadows, while in the depths songbirds trilled. The forest floor was carpeted in the brown of fungus and fallen leaves, while everything else was green with a sprinkling of rainbow dew.
It was possible Mhysra had been somewhere more beautiful, but at that moment she struggled to think of where. The cloud forest of Lansbrig was a natural wonder beyond compare. As she walked deeper into the forest basin, the canopy opened above her, revealing curving mountain walls and bright sky beyond. Distant bird calls echoed over the misty forest, answered by hooting monkeys.
The further into the trees she walked, the warmer it became as the sun rose higher. Flying squirrels skimmed from one tree to another, raucous bright green birds screamed insults at rivals, and everywhere she looked bizarre insects crawled, buzzed and sang around the leaves.
“So many wonders,” she murmured, stopping to study a ladybird the size of her thumbnail and brighter than sunlit gold.
“Lansbrig has always been special,” Dhori agreed, pointing out a pair of black frogs, perfect in form yet smaller than his fingertip. “Protected by silence. Those who come here never quite know how to describe it. Nor do they want it spoiled. It’s not only mists that cover this forest.”
A troop of chattering monkeys swung past overhead, frightening a flock of screeching birds into flight.
Mhysra winced. “Silence, you say?”
Dhori smiled ruefully and shrugged before they hurried to catch up with the others. The journey north from Mistrune to Lansbrig had taken five days of long, league-eating flight. By rights it should have taken longer, especially with the land gap between the two countries normally taking two very long days to cross due to the shortage of suitable resting sites. However, with the help of three indefatigable dragons and a moonless night, the crossing had taken less than one. Mhysra wasn’t certain Cumulo would ever recover from the indignity of being carried, but even her affronted miryhl couldn’t deny that they’d saved an awful lot of time and effort.
Which was how they’d arrived in the cloud forest of central Lansbrig three days faster than would normally have been expected. Much to the astonishment of the Rider base, who had no idea such interesting guests were roaming their area. The reactions to Rhiddyl and the vulardis had been interesting, Mhysra recalled with a wince, and that was before they realised just how strange Reglian and Goryal were, for all their surface human appearance. She preferred to forget the stir the dragonets had caused, waking up hungry just as things were settling down.
With such complications in mind, Lyrai and Honra had sent the students off roaming for the morning.
“Few people get to visit Lansbrig,” Lyrai had said, after Honra introduced their guides. “Even fewer have a chance to return. Best explore it while you can.” And they’d been packed off like good little children, leaving the adults to talk about important things.
Normally such behaviour would have annoyed Mhysra, but within strides of leaving the base the forest had engulfed her senses and all her attention. It was too wondrous to ignore just because she was irritated.
Not even Corin could spare a thought for their treatment; she had other things on her mind. “Have you seen Skybreeze?” she asked when Mhysra and Dhori rejoined the group.
Mhysra raised her eyebrows and looked at the others. Jaymes had Emberbright wrapped securely about his neck and waist, and was studying the trees with a worried expression. Their two Rider guides, Velleyn and Rekko, were busy beating the nearest undergrowth.
Taking a good look around the misty shadows, Mhysra shook her head. Who would have thought a bright blue, overgrown lizard was so easy to lose?
“When did you last have him?” Dhori asked, as Corin ran down the path, calling for her errant charge.
“He scrambled into the trees while Corin was looking at a spider web,” Jaymes explained, rubbing Emberbright’s neck with a hand that was part comfort, part restraint. Clearly he had no plans to lose his own dragonet. “Before she could blink, he whisked up a tree and was gone.”
“Dragons,” Dhori growled under his breath.
“Which tree did he go up?” Mhysra asked, expecting no more help out of Dhori.
“This one over -” Jaymes began, but was interrupted by Emberbright’s ear-piercing shriek.
Wincing, Mhysra put her hands over her ears and spotted a flash of blue leap from one tree to another. “There!” She pointed.
Emberbright screamed again and Jaymes dropped her. With an angry hiss, the dragonet shinned up the tree after the blue streak and was instantly lost to the gloom.
“What happened?” Corin demanded, running back as students and Riders alike rubbed their aching ears. “Where’s Ember?”
Jaymes cradled the side of his head and pointed upwards.
Corin huffed. “Great.”
“Dragons,” Dhori growled again, and the others snorted in agreement.
Directly overhead, a squirrel began swearing loudly in harsh nasally squeaks as leaves and twigs rained down. Something crackled, branches snapped and a ferocious squabble broke out. Squeals, yelps, squawks and short screams echoed through the trees. Then something cracked.
Mhysra dodged to the left as a large branch plummeted to the forest floor. Something blue and silver fell with it, yowling defiantly.
At which point Emberbright dropped smugly onto Jaymes’ shoulder, wrapping back around him with a triumphant purr.
“Thank Maegla,” Corin cried, pouncing on her dragonet before he could untangle his tail from the twigs. He squalled in protest, but she glared him into silence. “You need a ball and chain.”
The two Riders had been watching all the commotion with wide-eyed fascination, and now the shorter one grinned. “That could be arranged.”
“’cept the way I see it,” his partner added, rubbing his chin. “You’d have to carry it too, since you’re already hauling the little’un about every which way.”
Corin grimaced, draping Skybreeze backwards over her shoulder with his tail wrapped firmly around her hand. “He’s plenty heavy enough as he is, thanks.” Her dragonet flattened his head against her back with a contrite peep, and she rolled her eyes. “Dragons.”
~ Next Chapter ~
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