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~ Previous Chapter ~
Time for a breather.
“NO. NO. NO good. It is no good.” Destevan poked disdainfully at the wreck of Cumulo’s saddle. “Bad workmanship. I will do better.”
Mhysra stifled a protest as the Ihran threw the trusty piece of leather aside. She loved that saddle. Not just because it had been a faithful companion to her and her Wingborn for several years now, it had just saved Cumulo’s life. Her miryhl might be a little scratched and missing a few feathers, not to mention muddy, bloody and slightly trampled, but he was alive and would be well again very soon. Thanks to his saddle, which had taken the brunt of Willym’s monstrous claws.
Next to her, Derrain seemed amused. “I didn’t know you worked leather as well as metal, Destevan.”
The sturdy craftswoman sniffed. “I am Ihran, Derrain. I can work anything I put my hand to.”
She certainly could, Mhysra silently agreed, looking down in astonishment at the mail coat Destevan had thrust in her direction and told her to put on, since her flying leathers were in need of a good patch and scrub. The mail shirt was surprisingly light and moved as she moved. It would probably prove too heavy for prolonged fight, but while Cumulo was grounded, Mhysra was keeping the shirt on. Just because the Riders had taken the Heights without too much of a struggle, didn’t mean they would keep it for long.
“Where is Stirla?” Destevan demanded. “I need him.”
It was Mhysra turn to be amused as Derrain rolled his eyes. “I told you. He’s injured.”
“Well, heal him. I need him. I have work to do. Your broad shoulders must do for now. Come.” The Ihran marched off through the crowds of Riders busy turning the Heights into their new temporary home.
Knowing better than to argue, Derrain trudged off after the blacksmith. As he’d been doing since the moment Destevan unexpectedly arrived after the battle, dragging a train of bullwings and shouting for Derrain and Stirla to attend. Since Stirla had already been carried into the keep, with Goryal in close attendance, Derrain had been left to soothe the Ihran’s ruffled feathers, promising there would be another battle soon in which they could test out her new work. Destevan seemed most put out that she – and her wares – had missed the action, and she’d scolded Derrain as if it had been his fault.
Quite how the blacksmith had escaped her skyship, Mhysra wasn’t certain. General Keipen had had very firm ideas about where he wanted her to work – and it hadn’t included leaving for the mountain at the first opportunity.
“All well?” Dhori appeared out of the crowd, looking harried and less than his usual poised self. Like Derrain, he’d been very busy since the end of the battle. With Lyrai keeping a close watch over Stirla, and poor Sergeant Bheneo amongst the small number of Rider dead, Dhori had been given a quick field promotion to sergeant and put in charge of Lyrai’s forces. The first thing he’d done was send Corin winging away to Goatscarp in search of Captain Huro and any Rider-medics he had to hand. They had Goryal with them, of course, but the dragon was busy saving Stirla, and the handful of Rider healers were struggling to tend to the rest.
With all her friends busy, and Cumulo snuggled up in the eyries under Hurricane’s attentive eye, Mhysra felt adrift. For the first time in her Rider career, she didn’t know what to do. So when Dhori appeared, she practically pounced on him.
“Put me to work.”
He smiled. “Are you sure? I thought you’d want to stay with Cumulo.”
“It’s only a few lost feathers and bruised pride,” she assured him, waving off her Wingborn as if she hadn’t feared for his life so short a time ago. “Hurricane will watch him.” And she wasn’t sure quite how she felt about that. Although it was unusual for two male miryhls to couple up, it wasn’t entirely unheard of, so that didn’t bother her. She adored Hurricane and they were very sweet together. Only… where did that leave her? She wasn’t jealous, exactly, she was just lost. And alone. Until Dhori appeared.
“Give me something to do.”
Dhori rubbed his hands together and smiled a smile that probably should have made her nervous. “How’s your arm holding up?”
Mhysra looked at the hasty bandage that Derrain had wrapped around her upper right arm to save her from bothering the healers. It ached a bit, but she could flex her hand and she hadn’t bled through the linen yet. She shrugged. “It’s well enough.”
“Excellent.” Dhori slapped her on the left shoulder. “Buckets are there.” He pointed at the pile beside the courtyard door. “There’s a stream a little way inside the woods. Follow the path. We’ve tubs to fill for healers, cooks and general cleaning, and Goryal said not to trust the well. Off you go.” With a gentle shove towards the door, he vanished back into the busy crowd.
Mhysra sighed and trudged towards the pile of buckets, her arm already throbbing at the prospect ahead. Still, if she couldn’t have company, at least she could be useful. She gathered two buckets and stepped out into the gloomy day, eyeing the heavy clouds.
“Rain,” she grumbled, feeling the first spots as she walked through the ruined gates and looked at the handful of paths leading into the woods. Opting for the widest one, she hunched her shoulders as the sky emptied. “Of course it’s raining. A perfect end to a perfect day.”
Yet she smiled as she went, because as rough and vicious as things had been, they could have been worse. Her friends were alive, Cumulo wasn’t too badly hurt and the Riders were back in the citadel. Things would grow more difficult from here on, but as a first test, it hadn’t proved too costly.
“We’re coming for you, Kilai,” she promised as she reached the stream and bent to fill her buckets. “We’ll bring you home soon.”
~ Next Chapter ~
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