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~ Previous Chapter ~
Corin is not happy.
Travels and Travails
23rd Winter Rains
“WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?”
It was midmorning before Mhysra returned to the eyries, a foolish smile on her face as she slid from her grumpy miryhl’s back.
Corin crossed her arms over her chest and glowered – not that her oblivious friend noticed.
“Out,” Mhysra murmured dreamily, pulling Cumulo’s tack off and floating to the tack room.
Corin shared a sour look with Cumulo before tramping after her. “Out where?” she demanded, automatically ducking as she entered the tack room. The pouncing Skybreeze flew harmlessly over her head and tangled himself out in a row of bridles. Corin left him hanging amongst the reins, peeping pathetically. It was the seventh time that morning he’d tried to ambush her. The evidence of the first two successful attempts were still bleeding.
Mhysra was humming to herself as she slid Cumulo’s saddle onto a rack, until Corin slammed her hand down on the leather, making her jump.
“Out where?” Corin repeated, growling.
Her friend blinked, finally jolted out of her blissful haze. “I visited Rhiddyl.”
“And Lieutenant Lyrai just happened to come along for tea, I suppose?”
Mhysra frowned. “What’s happened?”
As the happy light faded from her friend’s face, her expression returning to the weary and slightly wary lines that had taken up residence over recent moons, Corin felt selfish and mean. She had tried not to be jealous of Mhysra’s deepening relationship with Lyrai – it wasn’t as though she wanted him for herself – but it was hard. Yes, her friend had suffered terribly over the loss of Kilai and the persecution of Yullik, but in almost every other way Mhysra was so lucky. She had Cumulo, she was brilliant friends with practically everyone they ever met, and now she had Lyrai too. The only thing Corin had was Skybreeze. Who really wasn’t anything worth writing home about.
Sighing, she turned away to untangle the now squalling dragonet, wishing she’d never answered that damned Call. It wasn’t like she hadn’t felt compulsions before. Why, at least once a moon she had an unreasonable desire for sweetcakes and chocolate, but that didn’t mean she gave in to it. Mostly. Well, not every time. Mostly.
“Corin?” Helping to untangle the pathetically limp Skybreeze, Mhysra caught her eye. “Tell me.”
It was all so stupid. Two years ago Corin had been an ordinary Nimbys girl, only daughter of a middleclass merchant family. Her time in the local school had just ended and her parents were thinking of sending her away to a seminary that turned merchant girls into young ladies, fit for making good marriages. Nothing odd or unusual as that, it was what she’d been raised to expected. Then had come the Rider decree and Corin had decided she needed a little more excitement in her life.
Feeling the weight of Skybreeze as he snuggled around her upper body, Corin realised excitement was highly overrated.
“It’s the dragonets,” she admitted.
“Ah.” Mhysra’s grimace said everything.
The mischievous pair had been causing trouble ever since they first exploded into Corin and Jaymes’ lives. Little Emberbright might not have been so noisy or naughty as Skybreeze, but people took one look at her scarlet scales and instantly feared she would burn the place down. Which had always seemed so unfair.
Mhysra rubbed a knuckle under Skybreeze’s chin, making him purr with contentment. “What’s he done now?”
Now Corin grimaced. “It wasn’t him.”
Her friend blinked. “Ember?”
Skybreeze was so lost to pleasure that his tail unwound from Corin’s waist and he fell off her shoulders. A quick grab saved him from losing his dignity, but sadly didn’t save Corin’s back from a gouging.
She gritted her teeth without complaint, having grown used to such pain. Her upper body was a mess. “She got her nose in the spice box when Jaymes took her in search of dinner.”
Infernally curious, the dragonets were forever sticking their noses where they weren’t welcome. However, Nimbys was the first place they had encountered such expensive ingredients as spices. Who would have guessed what might happen when a little fire dragonet was startled?
“They made her sneeze,” Corin said, when Mhysra looked perplexed. “It was quite explosive. The cook, two maids and a scullery boy had to visit the healers for strong convulsions and, um, minor burns.”
“Heirayk’s fiery balls,” Mhysra muttered.
Corin smiled in grim amusement. “Precisely.” Though there wasn’t really anything funny about the fact that Corin, Jaymes and the two dragonets were now homeless. “They won’t have us in the barracks anymore.”
Though to be honest Corin was glad about that. Their reception with the dragonets had been awkward. She was sick of people gawping at her, then avoiding her like she had the plague. Anyone would think they’d never seen a dragon before.
“But surely Goryal and Reglian…?” Mhysra started to ask, but stopped when Corin shook her head.
“Dhori said to leave them be. They’re trying to discreetly blend in. Lumbering them with the pests would probably get them thrown out as well.” They both sighed.
“What does Dhori suggest then?” Mhysra wanted to know, because when options were limited, they’d all learnt to turn to Dhori for answers. Even if they didn’t always like the one they were given.
Corin hesitated. This was the whole reason she’d been pacing the eyries since first light, after searching high and low for her friend yesterday evening. Dhori’s idea was a good one, but Corin didn’t feel right about it. Not until she’d checked with Mhysra.
“Milli was here yesterday,” she began.
Mhysra’s eyes tightened with remembered grief, reminding Corin of why her friend had gone temporarily missing in the first place.
Corin winced and carried on. “She spoke with Dhori. He told her everything. He was really kind,” she hastened to add, though she wasn’t sure why: Dhori was always kind. “And she said… well, mentioned… I mean…”
Corin had known she’d say that. “But -”
“No.” Mhysra shook her head firmly. “I won’t set foot back inside that house.”
Which was sweet of her, really, but: “You don’t have to stay there. Just Jaymes and I. The rest of you are perfectly welcome at the barracks. It’s only because of the dragonets -”
“I don’t care.” Mhysra was still shaking her head. “I won’t have you exposed to my father’s brand of so-called civility.”
“But we won’t even see Lord Kilpapan,” Corin protested.
“Which is worse!” Mhysra exploded. “You’ll be guests, but he’ll ignore you. I won’t let you be treated that way. And as for my mother!”
Corin grabbed her friend by the shoulders and gave her a sharp shake. “No, you don’t understand. We won’t see either of them. They’re not there, Mhysra. They’re both away. Milli said something about a country estate.”
“Oh.” Her friend deflated beneath her hands. “Of course. Kilparnen. My father must have remembered his duty.”
“According to Milli your father isn’t well. He had some sort of funny turn when he heard about Aquila. Your mother took him to the country to recover, leaving Milli here to wait for news.”
“Oh.” Mhysra blinked, then turned her head away. “I wish we’d never come back.”
Corin pulled her into a comforting hug, while Skybreeze crooned soothingly in their ears. “I know.” But they were only students; such decisions were not theirs to make. They could only do as they were told and hope everything worked out all right in the end. “Milli’s invited us to stay for as long as we need. I think she’s lonely.”
Mhysra mustered up a smile. “Poor Milli. She always was the best of us.”
“Then we can stay with her?” Corin checked carefully. “You don’t mind?”
“We will stay with her,” Mhysra agreed. “Milli shouldn’t have to be alone.”
~ Next Chapter ~
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