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~ Previous Chapter ~
In which Dhori shows how not to make friends.
BEFORE MHYSRA COULD ask anything else, Dhori found his way to the others, who greeted him with exclamations of surprise, delight and confusion. Mhysra sighed, watching as Corin threw herself into his arms, Skybreeze getting entangled along the way, while the human-shaped Reglian and Goryal hung back with notable reluctance.
“He must seem so strange to you.”
Mhysra looked up at Rhiddyl, surprised to find her so close. In the two days since leaving Meros, she’d settled so carefully and unobtrusively onto the top deck of the Thorncrest that Mhysra had practically forgotten she was there.
She smiled at the young dragon. “He is strange. There’s no seeming about it.”
Rhiddyl chuckled softly. “True.” Her head tilted to one side as she watched the chattering group on the other side of the deck, their questions tumbling over each other, leaving Dhori free to ignore as many as he wished. Which was most. As usual. “So many secrets.”
“Because dragons are so open and free,” she muttered.
Rhiddyl turned to her, her whole body rumbling with her amusement. “Also true. Who would have thought humans would be the most open of us all?”
“Open is not always honest.” A new voice entered the conversation. “Lies can hide just as much as secrets can.”
As Rhiddyl whistled thoughtfully over this observation, Mhysra smiled at the handsome captain she’d once met, quite by chance, sailing into Nimbys with a new batch of Rift Rider students. “Good afternoon, captain.”
Torven smiled his most charming smile and swept her a courtly bow. “My lady,” he returned. “I see your lost comrade has returned. And across most perilous seas. He must be a fearsome flyer. Or his miryhl most brave.”
“Latinym is a fine miryhl,” Mhysra agreed, though she would have had her own private doubts that he could have made such a journey on his own before this day. Then again, with Dhori on his back, who knew what miracles he might perform?
“Dhoriaen Aure is a most skilled Rider,” Rhiddyl fluted above their heads. “Capable of bringing out the very best in most.”
“And inciting the worst in others,” a subdued voice murmured as Reglian shuffled over. It was strange to see the arrogant dragon so quiet, but the anger of Dhori and the Riders had shocked him. Even now he flicked Mhysra a wary glance, unsure whether to smile or leave.
Thinking such uncertainty was good for him, Mhysra said nothing. He gave a heavy sigh, and above her head Rhiddyl made a sad whistling sound through her teeth.
Oblivious to the undercurrents, Captain Torven beamed. “Truly, my brother captains are fools. The gods smiled on me the day they made me return early to Meros, just in time to meet you, my lady. An adventure such as this is worth any price.” He looked at the two dragons approvingly as if he’d never doubted their existence, laughed at the idea of journeying to Sanctuary, or sworn long and voraciously at the sight of Rhiddyl attempting to alight on his precious deck. After almost tipping the ship over in the process, Reglian and Goryal had hurriedly shifted the airstones about to balance everything. It was probably for the best that Torven hadn’t seen Reglian in his full glory just yet.
He was lucky Rhiddyl was such a well mannered young dragon, who did her best to stay quiet and out of the way. As it was, half the crew had refused to make this trip. Part of Mhysra wondered if that was what had made Torven finally agree to come. The opportunity to order a bunch of Rift Riders around like crew, especially when one was a Kilpapan, was probably too good to miss. If he’d known who Lyrai really was, he’d probably have paid them. He’d been wary of shouting at the dragons at first, but when they’d flown into their first storm, barely a few miles out of Meros, he’d adapted quickly enough.
Luckily for Torven they were all good workers, including the dragons. Which had come as a surprise to more than just Mhysra. The bemused expression that had settled on Goryal’s face, suggested that the elder had yet to adjust to their new circumstances either. It was probably for the best that no one told Torven just how old his unusual crew really were.
Amused by her thoughts, Mhysra paid little attention as her companions’ talk turned to the mystery of Sanctuary. Only those connected with the High Tempest of the Cathedral of Maegla in Nimbys had ever set eyes on Sanctuary, let alone entered it. Charts of its location must surely exist, but they, like the High Tempest, would be in Nimbys, protected by the distant cathedral.
All they had to go on were rumours, stories and the airy musings of a group of dragons, who really should have learned their lesson by now. However, while the Riders might have lost faith in what the older dragons had to say, Torven had not been let down by them yet. He hung on their every word, fascinated and awed, though he tried hard to hide it.
“We hear so many things on the wind,” Reglian told the captain now. “They guide us well. How you humans get anywhere without listening to the wind is one of the great mysteries.”
Above her head Rhiddyl nodded in agreement, while Mhysra rolled her eyes. Compasses, navigation charts, familiar landmarks, the position of the sun and the stars at night had served her kind for more centuries than even Goryal had under their scales. Truly, their arrogance made the dragons so patronising at times. With every passing day in their company, Mhysra understood Dhori’s attitude towards them a little more.
“So what news does the wind carry this fine day?” Torven asked, beckoning Reglian to follow him up to the aft-deck and the wheel.
Curious as to what further nonsense Reglian would come out with, Mhysra trailed after them, stepping aside as the burly navigator fled from the dragon’s presence. She fought down a smile to see such a big man so easily scared away. He could probably take on boulders and win, but a tall, broad-shouldered man with gold eyebrows and golden nails sent him running like a well-bred lady from a mouse. All that was missing was the scream.
Stepping into the gap the navigator had left and catching the wheel before it could move an inch, Reglian showed no sign of discomfort at so unsettling the crew. He just smiled, raised his face to the wind, closed his eyes and breathed in deep. “There is land to the north-west. A largely empty space, wrapped in whispers and mysteries.”
Torven rubbed his hands together happily. “Sounds good. We should head that way, yes?”
“Only if you want to end up in the Wrathlen.” Dhori lounged against the rail, looking amused. “True, by now most of the pirates have moved to Aquila, but still, it’s not a pleasant place to stay. That’s if we don’t get swallowed by the Storm Surge first.”
Reglian’s golden nails darkened to black as his hands tightened on the wheel. “It has been many years since I last flew these skies. I am no longer familiar with Overworld geography.”
Dhori conceded the point with a tilt of his head. “It would take us three more days to get there, at any rate.” Pushing off the rail, he sauntered across to the wheel. “If I may?” he said, miming for Reglian to move over. The dragon did, but with notable reluctance.
Dhori’s smile turned wicked. “Hold tight!” he bellowed, wrenching the wheel to the right. Behind and below them ropes and tillers creaked and groaned into movement, while above the rise-side sails flattened and collapsed.
The whole Thorncrest moaned as it keeled over to one side, sending everyone scrabbling for a handhold as anything not tied down bounced loose on the tilting deck.
“Are you crazy?” Torven screamed, lunging for the wheel, trying to right his ship before the gasbag overhead lost too much shape. “You’ll kill us.”
“Nonsense.” Calm as anything, Dhori corrected the wheel and checked their new heading. “There. Keep on this line and we should get there before sunset. Keep up the good work, captain.” He slapped Torven on the shoulder and ducked away before the man could close his massive fist around Dhori’s neck.
Mhysra edged away from the captain’s murderous glare, but Reglian was chuckling. “If I did not know better, truly there are times when I would think he was a dragon.”
When Torven turned his glare in his direction, Reglian just laughed. Which seemed to Mhysra to be a good time to escape, before the good captain remembered who’d talked him into this fool’s errand of a voyage in the first place. Besides, she wanted to check that Cumulo and the miryhls were all right after such a shocking manoeuvre.
Reglian was right, at times Dhori could have been a dragon after all.
~ Next Chapter ~
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