Catch up with everything on the Wingborn page.
You can also visit the frequently updated Character List to help keep track of everyone.
~ Previous Chapter ~
Of fidgety Cues and creepy twins.
CUMULO WAS FIDGETING again. Rhiddyl could feel the tickle of feathers shuffling against her chest scales. For the most part he was a nice, silky warmth holding the worst of the weather at bay, enclosed between her arms and chest. The miryhl weighed hardly anything at all, especially compared to the amount of stuff she still had suspended from her belly net.
On her back Mhysra and Lyrai sat huddled together and, beside the occasional murmured comment to each other, Rhiddyl would hardly have known they were there. Not so for the miryhls. For one thing Cumulo was grumbling. Constantly.
“Be quite and stay still,” Hurricane growled.
“I’m uncomfortable,” Cumulo replied, fidgeting again and making Rhiddyl chuckle as his feathers tickled the sensitive underside of her front leg. “Remind me again why we are subjecting ourselves to this.”
“To save time,” Rhiddyl told him, tipping her head to one side so she could see the two miryhls clutched securely in her arms. “And to keep you all safe.”
Even as she spoke a fresh gust spiralled out of the sky, bringing with it bitterly cold rain and the tingle of lightning. Rhiddyl stretched her wings to their fullest span and revelled in the natural glory. They never had such storms in the Cleansed Lands. Nothing so wild, intemperate and free. At home the storms were mostly controlled by Clan Skystorm. Which rather took the fun out of things.
Not so here, where the weather was under no such restraints, except perhaps the whim of a goddess. If Maegla was present in this storm, however, Rhiddyl could not feel her. All she felt was the power.
“Safe,” Cumulo muttered, reminding Rhiddyl that she wasn’t here to enjoy the weather. “How can we be safe with a storm dragon in the middle of a storm? That’s just asking for trouble.”
Offended at this slight on her attention to duty – and a little embarrassed at the hint of truth – Rhiddyl dropped sullenly lower, taking them out of the thickest of the cloud, reminded of the fragile humans she had on his back. “If my flying does not meet your requirements, Cumulo, you need only say.”
Hurricane growled something uncomplimentary at Cumulo, who hunched as much as he was able and crackled his beak.
“I apologise for my rudeness,” he said reluctantly. “I did not mean to cast aspersions upon your abilities, Rhiddyl.”
The dragon fluted a soft laugh, relying on the fast winds to snatch it away before it could offend the disgruntled miryhl. She knew precisely how Cumulo was feeling. It wasn’t so very long ago since she was a youngster herself, having to be carried across greater distances than her developing wings could manage. Oh, how those journeys had chafed her young pride.
“You are forgiven, Cumulo,” she rumbled. “But in truth, if I do something that discomforts any of you, please let me know.” She directed her words over her shoulder as well as down at her chest, making sure all her passengers could hear her. “I am trying to make this journey as short as possible, but it will take a moment for me to adjust to the weather patterns enough to see how best to use them.”
“Just do what you have to,” Lyrai called from her back, and she felt a chilled hand patting her neck.
“We will endure,” agreed Hurricane by her chest.
Rhiddyl relaxed, content that the majority of her passengers were satisfied with her work. Still, the cold touch of Lyrai’s hand worried her. The last thing she wanted was for her human friends to fall ill. So she dropped even further out of the cloud layer and angled her wings to best ride the choppy winds. The sooner she reached the Storm Peaks, the sooner she could put them down and warm them all up.
Stretching out her neck, she caught sight of Reglian skimming ahead and slid into the bigger dragon’s wake.
* * *
THERE WAS SOMEONE in the room. Yullik woke without opening his eyes or making any outward movement, letting his senses roam free. Blood and ashes, he was still so hideously weak, it was all he could do to scope out the room.
A familiar sting sizzled along his skin, separating the single mind into two. Recognition made him open his eyes with a mocking smile.
“Feeling courageous today?” he asked, the rough croak of his voice more akin to a hunting cat’s growl.
Rion looked up from where he and his sister were leaning over Willym’s prone form. He smiled, while his sister scowled. “Awake at last?”
Yullik said nothing, knowing full well they could never had entered the room without him knowing. They were simply too… much. For all that they often felt more like one person instead of two, there was a thick resonance about them that was impossible for him to ignore. He had met few such powerful beings in his time – and he’d mistrusted every one.
“I trust my hungry kaz-naghkt did not prove too tiresome on your way in,” Yullik eventually said, forcing himself out of his chair and over to the sideboard, where a decanter of crimson liquid awaited him. It wasn’t the red stuff he would have preferred, but the wine was sweet enough. It soothed his rough throat and fired a spark in his belly. Enough to be getting on with.
“We saw none,” Riame said, touching a hand to Willym’s ruined cheek.
“They are all too busy in the town,” her brother agreed, smirking. “Akavia will not be pleased. I thought you had an agreement.”
“We did,” Yullik acknowledged, raising his glass in a mocking toast. “But needs must.”
Riame frowned at her brother and pulled Willym’s blanket down with a crooked finger. In the chilled light of the winter afternoon his scars looked black against his grey chest. The captain stroked the deepest one and tutted. “Could you not have put a little more effort in? He was so pretty.”
“He was also drained dry,” Yullik told her. “Would you have preferred a pretty corpse?”
She actually pouted. “Corpses are never pretty.”
“He looks dead,” was Rion’s verdict. “What did you do to him?”
“I gave him blood, since he was so careless as to lose most of his own.”
The twins raised their heads and gave him identical looks of narrow-eyed enquiry.
“Kaz-naghkt blood.” Yullik smiled. “It was all I had to hand.”
The twins looked at each other, turning this fresh knowledge over in their minds.
“Will he survive?” Rion asked.
“More than likely. I’ve kept him here this far. Now the worst is over there’s little chance he will fade away now.”
“Will he change?” Riame wanted to know.
Yullik sipped his wine and shook his head. “No more beyond what you see now. My kaz-naghkt were born as they are. I did not graft on their wings, teeth or claws.”
“But his skin.” Riame pulled at the looseness around Willym’s jaw. “It’s grey, and it feels… strange. Almost leathery.”
“Those who get so close to death rarely emerge unscathed.” Yullik didn’t bother to disguise his yawn, bored of the subject already. “Who knows who he will wake up as?”
Again the twins exchanged a glance, but this time they smiled. “Sounds promising.”
~ Next Chapter ~
Thanks for reading!