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~ Previous Chapter ~
Story time with Lyrai!
On board the Thorncrest
1st Winter Rains
THERE WERE SOME habits it seemed impossible to break, Lyrai thought as he rolled out of his bunk in the dark gloom before dawn. It seemed he’d been taking the dawn watch forever. Yet even now, when he could legitimately leave such a responsibility to the Thorncrest’s capable crew, he found himself getting up anyway.
He wasn’t the only one. Dhori passed him at the door, heading to his own bunk after taking the deep night watch. They exchanged nods, neither one questioning why the other still felt the need to do this. Until they were safe in Nimbys, they simply would.
Smiling to himself, Lyrai yawned and climbed to the top deck, stretching out the kinks in his spine along the way. As he made his way to the stern to begin a steady circuit of the deck, he nodded to the sleepy sailors taking their own watch.
At the prow, he paused to lean over the rail. Then glanced sideways at the girl huddled on top of a chest of spare rope and sailcloth. “Bad dreams again?”
Mhysra’s smile was wan as she unfolded herself from her perch and moved towards him. “All my dreams are bad these days,” she said, shivering in the predawn chill. “I don’t need Yullik to send them anymore.”
Murmuring some soothing nonsense, he slipped an arm around her waist and pulled her close. “Shall I tell you a story?”
Chuckling, she slipped an arm about him in return. “You don’t strike me as the story type.”
“It’s that book the healer gave me when we left the Cleansed Lands,” he explained, a little sheepishly. “I can’t seem to leave it alone.”
“Like the tale of Maegla marrying a human king?” she mumbled, reminding him of a dinner table discussion back in Mistrune, which thanks to Corin and Jaymes had soon got out of hand.
“Mm,” Lyrai agreed. “I never did get a chance to read it to you.”
“I thought you were going to lend it,” she yawned.
“I’d rather tell you.”
“Go on then,” she sighed, though he could hear the smile in her voice. “If you must.”
“I must,” he agreed, hauling her in front of him when she shivered again. With his arms wrapped about her waist he propped his chin on her shoulder, marvelling again that she was almost as tall as he was. Some men might have been put off by that, but he liked it. “Although we have little interest in kings.”
“Speak for yourself,” she interrupted, leaning back against him. “I find the idea of Maegla marrying a human king rather fascinating. He must have been quite a man.”
“Quiet, you,” Lyrai grumbled, squeezing her waist to remind her who was in charge of this story. “There are no kings in your future.”
They both fell silent at that. Lyrai didn’t know what the future held – for either of them. Nor did he want to think about it. He was having quite uncharacteristically domesticated thoughts as it was of late and the last thing he wanted was to scare her away. Especially when she was standing so close.
Letting the silence pass, he squeezed her waist again and put his lips to her ear. “What if I were to tell you of a child? The child of a king and a goddess. A spoiled, beloved boy with an uncertain temper, who longed for the mother he had never known. Who walked out into the worst storms and came back unscathed and whole.”
“Does this child have a name?” Mhysra asked dryly. “Because he sounds a little familiar.”
It was Lyrai’s turn to chuckle. “The book doesn’t say. It merely tells of an unhappy boy, filled with anger and rage, searching the world for a way to meet his mother face to face.”
“And did he find her?”
“Well, this boy was not the only godling child in the world,” Lyrai continued, smiling at her eagerness. “He may not have been aware of them, but they knew of him. A set of twins, Heriame and Herione, children of Jarquais, one of the Forgotten Gods, and their gifts were of Chaos and Mischief. They taunted and teased Maegla’s child until he barely knew his own mind, then took him before Mighty Heirayk Himself.”
“As easy as that,” Mhysra said sceptically. “Why is it always so easy in these stories?”
“Well,” Lyrai chuckled, trying to remember what the book had said. “It’s a little known fact that in the days before the Clouds came, the gods still lived close to the world.”
“And they could be reached by the most brave and determined of mortals,” he said, striving to ignore her unhelpful interruptions. “Those that made such a journey were granted a gift or a boon beyond price. So Heirayk sat upon His sun throne and asked the boy what he most desired. The gift he was granted was a sword from the forge of the gods. Not just any sword, but one imbued with the power of Saempithe, child of Light and Dark, God of Fire.”
“I hope the hilt was well wrapped,” Mhysra muttered sceptically. “It sounds a little hot to handle.”
Giving her a warning squeeze, Lyrai continued, “Taking his gift the boy travelled the world, looking for the strongest storms to challenge his mighty mother to meet him. Yet always She refused. The boy travelled on, but he was rarely alone. The Twins of Discord followed, stoking his anger with their mischief and lies. Then one day they chanced to spy the goddess looking down, saddened and sorrowful to see such rage in Her beautiful child. They told the boy She was watching and lent him the sight of the gods to reveal the Storm Goddess in all Her glory.
“Crying out, the boy threw his sword at his mother. It struck Her clouded seat with a crash that shook the bones of the earth.”
“What a brat.”
“Did I say his father was dead?” Lyrai said. “And that the boy blamed his absent mother for breaking his heart and driving him into his grave?”
Mhysra sighed impatiently. “No, you forgot to mention that.”
“Well, he did. Anyway, ‘My son,’ spoke the Goddess in the voice of the thunder newly born. ‘Why do you throw your sword at me?’”
“Because I am throwing a tantrum of misplaced angst.”
“You are not helping,” Lyrai grumbled. “I am trying to tell you a story.”
“Sorry,” she murmured, hanging her head, but he wasn’t convinced.
Giving a sniff of wounded dignity, he tried to remember where he’d got to. “In answer to the Goddess’ question the boy raged with all the power of a tempest, for had She not left him to his father when he was still a babe in arms? Had She not once ever tried to speak with him? Where had She been when his father died? Where had She been when Her son cried for Her? Why had She left him alone? Did She not love Her son?”
“Not if She was -”
Lyrai cut off her unhelpful comment by putting his hand over her mouth. “Such bitter words wounded the Goddess far more than any sword could, and She at last descended from Her skies to hold Her child in Her arms. Words passed between them then, as sharp as lightning, as deep as thunder and as healing as rain. With Her wisdom to guide him the lies of the Twins of Discord were slowly blown away, leaving his mind free and unclouded for the first time. When he returned to the world, it was as a new man.
“For though the Twins had meant nothing but trouble, their mischief had served a purpose. The sword,” he murmured against Mhysra’s cheek, and felt her smile against his palm. He trailed his fingers along her jaw, tilting her head back for a butterfly kiss. “A sword forged of divine fire, whose every blow echoed with thunder. And so the child of the Storm Goddess was granted the gift of Lightning, to wield in his mother’s service.”
“Which is all very nice for them,” Mhysra grumbled. “But surely there was thunder and lightning before all this family infighting? Otherwise what kind of storms were they?”
“Wet and windy ones. Squalls, as the dragons would say.”
Startled, Lyrai looked over his shoulder, loosening his grip on Mhysra. Dhori was watching them with a wry half-smile. “Probably a few plagues of frogs and blood, and some other such stuff too,” he continued airily. “Isn’t that what usually happens in tales of the time before yore?”
Lyrai watched the silver-eyed student thoughtfully, while Mhysra chuckled. “When was yore anyway?”
Dhori grinned, his face lit by the first rays of the rising sun. “After the time before.”
Rolling his eyes at their silliness, Lyrai turned towards the dawn. “I thought you were asleep.”
Dhori shrugged and joined them by the prow rail. “There wasn’t much point. Besides I like to watch the sunrise.”
Which was precisely what they did as the sun crept into the sky, peering over the jagged edges of Sanctuary. Golden and glorious, the light bounced off the early morning sea and made the whole world precious.
Smiling, Lyrai looped his arm around Mhysra’s waist and pulled her closer. At times like this he liked to watch the sunrise too.
~ Next Chapter ~
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