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~ Previous Chapter ~
SOMEONE WAS SCREAMING. Yullik felt the young Rider’s final sigh and let her go. Her body collapsed backwards, sprawling in the dust, her left hand flopping out to brush against the silver claws of the dead dragonet. There was a flash of light and the dragonet turned to stone.
Both dead. Dragongift bonded to the last.
How tragically poetic. Yullik hadn’t realised they were bonded when the dragonet attacked. He’d simply acted on instinct to defend himself. A shame and a waste. He could have used a bond like theirs. It might have been useful.
Too late now. He rose to his feet and stared at the dead girl. She was small, but had been surprisingly fierce in the end. Such pain. It caused an echo inside his chest and he rubbed it with a frown. He hated been rushed and forced into actions he later regretted. He hated regrets. This, he was certain, would be one of them. One of many. He’d lived too long to have none.
However, since living was the aim of the game, he supposed he’d been left with no choice. The girl might not have been able to kill him, but there was no knowing what might happen once dragons were involved, even one so young and small as that one had been.
He’d had no choice.
Rubbing at the ache in his chest, Yullik wasn’t certain that answer was good enough. It would have to do; it was the only one he had.
Shrugging his shoulders, he shifted the weight of their deaths, adding them to the pile of other regrets he kept locked away, and turned back to survey his scene of destruction. He smiled. Now that was something he did not regret.
Aquila lay in ruins. Its once proud citadel now missing one of its mighty towers. The great bridge and the eyries above them that had often been called a wonder of the Overworld was broken. The river was backing up already, flooding over the grassy banks, ready to seep into the halls in search of a new outlet.
No, he had no regrets about this. This was a scene to be proud of. If he couldn’t keep Aquila for himself, no one would have it.
Best of all, the tower’s fall had brought down a few of his old foes – the broad-shouldered, scarred-faced lieutenant who once stole his prisoners from under his nose; the golden-haired lieutenant who dared to cut him with the Eagle’s Blade; the silver-eyed creature with a storm scent he hated.
And the Wingborn.
Yullik laughed beneath the rising moon as his eyes fell upon the girl lying pinned in the centre of the ruins, her stormy grey-blue gaze fixed upon him with hatred and the promise of revenge.
The Wingborn at last.
Now that was something he could definitely find a use for.
Stepping lightly across the ruins, feet elongating into their dragon form, Yullik spread his wings and crouched over the trapped girl. “Come with me.”
“You won’t get away with this,” she growled. “You won’t win. My miryhl will find you. He’ll tear you apart.”
“Oh, he’ll find me,” he agreed, brushing the wreckage away from her with easy swipes of his scaled hands. “I’m counting on it.”
He picked her up, ignoring her agonised cries as he jostled her broken body in his arms. She tried to fight him, but pain made her weak. One hand hit his chest, her fingernails scratching over the scar she’d given him, digging in as though she could physically pull out his heart.
Such spirit. It made him chuckle as he rose to his feet, then looked down, catching her angry eyes with his own. “Sleep,” he commanded, filling the word with power.
She fought, of course she did, but her injuries overwhelmed her. She slumped in his arms, barely breathing, and his magic itched to heal her. Not yet. Perhaps not ever. It all depended on how much trouble she caused.
He smiled faintly, almost looking forward to it, then bent his legs and launched into the air.
It wasn’t the most picturesque take-off, but it was his first attempt. He beat his broad wings, grunting as unfamiliar muscles stretched into use. Gritting his teeth with determination, he pulled them up out of the wreckage of Aquila and took to the skies.
His kaz-naghkt followed, crawling out of windows and doors and cracks in the wall where they’d fled when he’d warned them he was bringing to tower down. Their numbers were greatly depleted, but there were still enough of them to form a black crowd around him as he lifted into the moonlight and headed west.
First stop, the skyships of the captain twins to see how well they kept their word.
Then home. World’s End was calling and he had a furious Wingborn miryhl to prepare for. He would come for his human, of that Yullik had no doubt, and then the real fun would begin.
He could hardly wait.
Laughing and listing on his aching, too-new wings, Yullik flew into the darkness with his kaz-naghkt shrieking around him. They might have lost Aquila, but Yullik was certain he’d just won the war.
~ Next Chapter ~
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