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 ~
IT WAS MIDMORNING in the Heighlen Range and if Derrain didn’t see something other than peaks and snow soon, he was going to go stark staring mad. Beneath him, Zephyr flew in her dogged style. It wasn’t flashy or showy like some miryhls he could think of – Cumulo, for some reason, came top of that list – but it ate up the miles with as little fuss as possible. Thankfully both Atyrn and Bracken were similar in build, flight style and temperament, making them a well matched trio, who each took their turn in the lead without argument.
If he sometimes yearned for a minor spot of theatrics, or the tiniest of crises, well, surely no one could blame him for wanting to break the monotony a little. Just a touch. Nothing serious or life-threatening, just something different for once. Yes, an endless view of sharp-toothed mountain peaks stretching across all horizons was an awe-inspiring sight. Adding in a blanket of snow gave it a magical touch, throwing shades of white and deep blue into an already beautiful mix. Then there were the monumental glaciers, carving their inexorable way through the landscape.
Undeniable, unstoppable, amazing. Yet after twelve unrelenting days, enough was enough. The bitter cold had numbed him into acceptance, Stirla had started cooking again to save them from the horrors Neryth kept producing, and the blizzards were mostly leaving them alone. Which was all to the good. Now all he needed was a change to his view, because the prospect of spending another twenty or so days like this was really getting to him.
The sound of Neryth calling up ahead jerked Derrain from his thoughts. Narrowing his eyes against the glare of the low midday sun, he squinted at Bracken, leading their shallow formation.
The princess on his back was waving her arms and pointing south. Dutifully, Derrain turned his head in that direction, but his eyes were so used to peaks and snow that it took him a moment to register what he was looking at.
“Houses!” Zephyr called beneath him, the joy in her voice telling him exactly how she’d been feeling until now. “People. A town, Derry. It’s a town!”
“Not just any town,” Stirla called out. “Don’t you recognise it, Derry?” So saying he and Atyrn raced ahead to gather Bracken back in, indicating for Zephyr to follow as they stooped down the mountain pass that rose above the town.
Beyond the clustered dwellings, some of which seemed brand new to Derrain’s thirsty eyes, he saw the wide blanket of the Cloud Sea. As they followed the others through the pass and into the open air beyond, Derrain stared off to the south.
“Next stop Aquila,” he murmured, remembering now.
The cramped skyships, those desperate days, the suffering, the dying, the grief, anger and burning rage. Then land on the horizon and a town full of stunned people. Restra. They were back in Restra, where news of the fall of Aquila had first reached land. Where so many of the injured and dying had been left behind, as the Rift Riders were forced to move on to find help.
“Maegla,” he whispered, wishing he’d never been so stupid as to wish for a change in his horizons. What harm were peaks and snow now, compared with a nightmare of memories?
* * *
Somewhere in the Cloud Sea
IT DIDN’T LOOK like much to her, but then ever since she’d emerged from the Storm Surge Rhiddyl had been forced to adjust her expectations. Nothing in the Cursed Lands – sorry, Overworld, she must remember to be polite – was as she’d imagined. It was so different to her homeland. The relentless white of the Cloud Sea was at once astonishing and awful. How much land lay drowned below those clouds? How much potential had been lost? And yet how much beauty it brought to the world, where the mountains were just islands in the high rising seas.
Then there were the human towns, clinging to the steep peaks. She’d been taught that humans were a tricky, sly kind of folk, but no one had told her of their ingenuity. She had expected primitive quarters and been surprised with wonders. She only wished she could change her form into a small enough shape to fit inside them.
True, they were not quite up to dragon standards in their levels of architecture, but for people so small they nevertheless achieved remarkable things. Like the skyship that had carried them across so many miles. Yes, it had the added buoyancy brought to it by well placed dragongift airstones, but in Meros she’d been lucky enough to see many other ships and had marvel at the variety of ways the humans built them. Their lack of wings had not stopped them from finding plenty of ways to fly and transport their goods. A skyship was far more comfortable than a belly net, any day of the moon.
Now she was soaring in the skies above the ship, far more efficient and faster than the elegant vessel, approaching a place that was a myth to the humans watching her below. They spoke of this place with reverence and whispers. It was a mystery and a marvel to them.
To Rhiddyl it was just a scrubby collection of dead volcanoes, adrift in a sea of white. There were sparse patches of greenery down below, but she’d seen better. The forest of Lansbrig sprang indelibly to mind and she sighed in remembrance. Now that had been beautiful. She wasn’t sure even the Cleansed Lands had a place to match that glorious cloud forest.
The air around her filled with the excited chatter of miryhls, and she shook off her memories to focus on the wind. A tempestuous place, she thought, spreading her wings and revelling in the challenge they offered. She dearly loved to soar.
Especially when she did not soar alone. Reglian was with her, an enormous thundercloud of a dragon, and between them drifted Goryal, fragile, ethereal and barely visible in their glassiest hue.
Rhiddyl was so enjoying herself riding the winds, that it took a moment for her to realise what was missing. She looked down between her front paws, then back over her wings and around towards the ship. The skies were empty.
Where were the miryhls?
“Reglian!” she called, startling the big dragon from his own enjoyable flight. When he frowned, Rhiddyl waved her front paws in agitation. “Where are the miryhls?”
Golden eyes rounded in horror as he realised he’d once again failed in his duties towards the Rift Riders. Roaring a curse in draconic, the big black dragon tucked in his wings and dived towards the nearest caldera.
Goryal was ahead of him, their wings singing in the wind, while Rhiddyl followed them both. It wasn’t until they were below the highest lip of the largest volcano that they saw them, spiralling down in a large flock, the vulardis with them, joining with more and more miryhls, the most Rhiddyl had ever seen.
There were so many it was like a rippling sea of brown feathers, shining in the sun. She flexed her wings and hovered for a moment, breathless at their beauty.
Until the roaring Reglian barrelled straight through them, unable to stop himself in time. Goryal and Rhiddyl could only shake their heads. Truly, the archivist had no finesse.
Thankfully the miryhls scattered and wheeled gracefully away from the black monster, as the dragon spread his golden-shining wings and soared once more, calling for the miryhls he knew to, “Come back, at once!”
They ignored him.
Amused, Rhiddyl glided above the flickering flock, enjoying their exuberance. Until one particular miryhl separated itself out and soared to meet her.
She was the biggest miryhl Rhiddyl had ever seen, close to a vulardi in size. And so beautiful. Her eyes were the colour of a storm, and the essence inside her called to the spirit inside Rhiddyl. Her body hummed with recognition.
A true Storm Wing. A pure creation of Maegla herself. A miryhl of the storm.
This was the Cyclone, the holiest miryhl on the Overworld.
Rhiddyl hovered politely, waiting for her to come close, and when she did she bowed her head in respectful greeting. “Well met, Blessed Cyclone.”
She hovered opposite, the storm in her eyes answering the lightning in Rhiddyl’s. “Well met, Rhidystel kin Tempestfury Clan Skystorm. Welcome to Sanctuary.”
~ Next Chapter ~
Thanks for reading!