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~ Previous Chapter ~
Oh, there are dragons in this? I’d almost forgotten…
“SO THIS IS Nimbys.” Having left the Thorncrest under cover of darkness in the early morning, Rhiddyl had shrouded herself in rain clouds and taken a long and torturous route with the vulardis, ably guided by Cumulo and Hurricane. Eventually, as their friends drifted into the harbour somewhere down below, they had arrived here, high up near the peak of the mountain. It was a strange, almost mythical world of snow and ice. Rhiddyl thought it charming.
The miryhls, however, were fluffed up like dust balls and huddled together for warmth. “Y-yes. N-nimb-bys,” Hurricane assured her through a chattering beak.
Poor warm-blooded creatures. Rhiddyl raised her wing and tilted it to block out the worst of the icy wind. It didn’t bother her when icicles formed along her joints, but then she didn’t have to deal with the delicacies of feathers. On her other side the vulardis roosting together beneath her other wing. They saw nothing wrong with accepting whatever shelter was on offer. Miryhls, however, were proud, so Rhiddyl had learned to be sneaky.
Content that the worst of the weather wasn’t reaching her friends, Rhiddyl stretched out her neck and peered through the snow and sleet. Mist feathered over Nimbys’ streets, falling as a light but constant rain. It made it all look so strange and unreal. Like a toy town, built for dragonlings to play with.
“I like it.” There was something wonderful about how this one valley on this high mountain had been taken over by ingenious humans, taking full advantage of its south-facing position to soak up the largest possible amount of sunshine. The way the pointy-roofed building dominated the open end, while here in the mountain’s shelter stood another big building, one of towers and consequence. Important people must live in both. It made Rhiddyl rather curious, wishing once again that she was small enough to go inside.
The flying field situated to one side of the second big human dwelling was there for an obvious purpose, as were the barns and buildings scattered around it.
“Is that your home?” she asked. “Would you like to go and wait for the others there? I will be quite all right up here on my own.”
It would be lonely, the vulardis not being ones for much conversation, but she had no doubt Goryal and Reglian would visit before the day was out. Besides, there was so much for her to see and explore up here. She might even enjoy herself.
“We will wait for the others,” Hurricane said. “It would be best if we arrived together.”
“Less questions that way,” Cumulo agreed.
Rhiddyl hummed her agreement, though she wondered just how they would handle all the questions that would soon be raining down upon their heads. Reglian revelled in making difficulties. After helping tow the Thorncrest to Nimbys during bouts of strong weather, the archivist was back on good terms with the Riders now. Well enough for him to start playing tricks again. Rhiddyl sighed and hoped he wasn’t about to fall out with everyone again. It made things so uncomfortable.
Yes, staying up here on the mountain and out of the way was looking more and more attractive by the moment.
“What is that place?” she asked, hunching over as a strong gust caused hail to rattle off her wing, which she tilted to protect the miryhls. When Cumulo eyed her speculatively, Rhiddyl raised a foot and pointed directly downwards. “That one there. And the one at the other end of the valley. Do many important people live in Nimbys?”
Hurricane gave a soft chuckle, while Cumulo scratched his beak. “The one at the far end is the Cathedral of Maegla. It’s a place of worship, although the High Tempest lives in a small part of it with some of his acolytes.”
“Such a big place!” Rhiddyl exclaimed, surprised at the waste of such a fine location. Especially when the dwellings that surrounded it seemed so tightly packed together. Why, from this angle, they looked positively stacked on top of each other. She wondered what they were like to live in, and was glad she wasn’t small enough to have to try.
“Maegla is a very important goddess to the Overworld,” Hurricane explained in his calm, kind way. “Especially in Nimbys, with its strong links to the Flying Corps and the Rift Riders.” When Rhiddyl looked confused, the miryhl continued: “The Corps have their Eastern headquarters here, and since Maegla created the miryhls she is the patron of the Riders.”
“Ah.” Rhiddyl hummed her understanding. “I have heard the stories of Maegla’s interference.” She fluted a chuckle. “Clans Sunlord and Skyflight still complain of it to this day.” When the miryhls eyed her curiously, she explained, “You were not quite what they had in mind when they agreed to create flying creatures to save the human race.”
Since both miryhls fluffed up their feathers in affront, Rhiddyl was quick to add, “Not that there is anything wrong with you. I think miryhls are beautiful, far more so than pyreflies and horsats. But the Clans are inventors. They like to combine things to create surprising and sometimes shocking results. You were too perfect to please them.”
Mollified, the miryhls settled down again by Rhiddyl’s side, and she breathed a subtle sigh of relief. She should have known better than to offend Cumulo’s pride. If she wasn’t careful they would stop talking to her next.
Tapping her claws in the snow, she looked over the town again. “You didn’t tell me who lives in the other big place. The one directly below us. Or is it another cathedral?”
“That is the Stratys Palace,” Hurricane replied, his tone strangely colourless. “The Stratys and his court reside there.”
“Oh.” Well, at least it wasn’t empty. Still, she would have expected more enthusiasm from the miryhls. Especially Cumulo. He seemed the type to enjoy pomp and ceremony. Then Rhiddyl remembered. “Is not Lyrai’s father the Stratys?”
“Yes,” the miryhls replied in one dull voice.
“Oh.” Rhiddyl blinked. “It will be nice for him to see his family again, I expect.”
This time the miryhls didn’t answer and Rhiddyl couldn’t find anything else to say. Perhaps she would have been better off waiting on the mountain alone after all.
“YOU HAVE FAMILY here, do you not?” Reglian asked Corin and Mhysra, as they pointed him towards more boxes to carry down the gangplank, in an attempt to hide his tell-tale nails.
The two girls exchanged glances. “Yes,” Corin said, twitching at the shoulder strap of her bag where Skybreeze was sulking out of sight. “My family are merchants.”
When Reglian looked at her, Mhysra gave a reluctant nod. “Mine too. They have a mansion in the Noble Quarter.”
“Lovely,” the dragon announced, hefting the heavy box with ease, apparently forgetting that he was supposed to be acting human. “You must be excited about seeing them.”
Corin fidgeted with her bag again, while Mhysra studied her boots. “Yes,” they mumbled.
The dragon frowned and carried his burden away. “I will never understand humans.”
“Which is probably for the best.” Goryal appeared beside them, looking fragile and pale, especially in the heavy materials of their borrowed rain gear. They swamped them like a child playing dress-up in their parent’s clothing. “We dragons are raised communally in one place, living all atop one another for our first few centuries, before dispersing across our kin and Clanlands, so we do not in general understand family secrets. Plus Reglian is old and stately now, and likely no longer remembers how it was to be amongst the youngest.”
Mhysra raised her eyebrows. “And you do?”
The elder chuckled. “I contrive to make an effort.” Picking up another box that really ought to have been roped over to the dock under the efforts of three people, the slender dragon sauntered away without the least difficulty.
“This is never going to work,” Corin groaned, watching the dragons confer and stack crates under the wide gazes of an ever-growing crowd.
“With dragons involved, the only way to hide them is with a miracle,” Jaymes said as he joined them, a bag matching Corin’s on his back. Inside Emberbright was snoring with a soft purr, content to be close to her Dragongifted.
“And here’s me, all fresh out of them.” They turned to find Dhori staring up at the mountain, eyes narrowed against the rain. “Not that they work on dragons anyway. They put themselves above that kind of thing.”
“Typical,” Lyrai said, emerging from the hold with the last of their things, Honra on his heels. “You know how much they enjoy making a fuss.”
They all looked down at the dock, where the dragons had drawn quite a crowd as they obliviously continued rearranging the heavy crates for optimum use of space.
“Well, they’ve made an excellent beginning in that case,” Honra sighed. “This will be all over Nimbys by nightfall.”
“Then we’d best made sure we reach Captain Myran and the offices before it does,” Lyrai said grimly. “At least we know the miryhls will be there to announce us.”
Even as he spoke, the hull beneath them shuddered as the remaining four miryhls were released to make their own way to the eyries.
“And won’t they all be surprised,” Dhori murmured, making the others grin. It was a shame they’d wouldn’t be there to see how the miryhls were received; it would probably be the most amusing aspect of their unexpected return. As the rest of what lay before them fell over their company like a lead-weighted blanket, Mhysra wasn’t the only one to lose her smile.
Gods, this was not going to be pretty.
“Best make a start if we’re to find the captain before he comes looking for us,” Honra reminded them, and with heavy hearts they took their leave of Captain Torven and trudged down the gangplank to the dock below. They were back in Nimbys, but just how the city would receive them remained to be seen.
~ Next Chapter ~
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