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~ Previous Chapter ~
We’re still in the same scene as before, but a new perspective has arrived…
“DOES HE REALLY believe it’s as easy as that?” a deep voice rumbled from the shadows of the corridor as Reglian stepped in through the open door. “That the surviving kaz-naghkt will simply return to their mountains and die away? That they won’t breed and multiply and return just as strong and vicious as ever?”
Lyrai blinked. He’d been so focused on not showing his fury at leaving Mhysra in Yullik’s hands that he’d missed that part of Keipen’s ridiculous speech. Propped up against the wall beside him, Stirla gave an amused snort, while Imaino smiled behind the desk.
Seated at that same desk, Myran rubbed a hand over his weary face, fingers tracing the new scar that had permanently altered the bridge of his nose, and sighed. “When it comes to guessing the general’s thoughts, dragon, who can say? But he is right. I will not be sending any Riders west. I have few enough here as it is. I cannot spare so much as a flurry when I don’t even have a full flight. His orders, for once, will be easy to obey.”
Lyrai’s shoulders slumped. He knew the truth of his former captain’s words, but couldn’t deny his disappointment. He’d planned to sneak away at the first opportunity anyway, but it would have been nice if he hadn’t been forced to. A nudge in the ribs from Stirla had him looking up again. Myran was staring at him.
“Do you understand, lieutenants?” the new dean said carefully, holding each of them in turn with his eyes. “I will not send anyone west.”
Lyrai’s head was still recovering from the hard knock it had taken two moons ago so it took him a moment to realise what Myran was trying to say. He was still frowning over why the man was repeating the obvious when Stirla snapped to attention alongside him.
“Aye, sir. We understand.”
Lyrai’s head throbbed and he frowned, letting the words sink in.
“Lyrai?” Myran focused solely on him. “Do you understand?”
Rubbing his aching head, Lyrai nodded sullenly. “Aye, sir.” Even though he wasn’t sure he did. Myran wasn’t going to send him or anyone west. Disappointing but irrelevant since Lyrai was going whether he was sent or – Oh.
He blinked and raised his head, shoulders pulling back to full attention. “I understand, sir,” he said, and Myran gave the faintest smile.
And it was good. Very good. Myran might not be able to spare a flurry to go west, and was under explicit orders not to send anyone, but nor would he stop a young lieutenant or two who just so happened to slip away in the night with a handful of trusted Riders, all of whom had unfinished business with a certain Yullik ses-Khennik.
Content that his youngest lieutenants finally understood the situation, Dean Myran turned to the dragon glowering in the doorway. “Keipen made another good point. Yullik is yours to deal with. Can we trust you to take care of him?”
Reglian’s golden eyes gleamed as he glanced between Lyrai, Stirla and their former captain. “I believe so,” he rumbled.
As much as you could ever trust a dragon anyway, Lyrai thought. After all, they’d let Yullik go once – no, twice – before already. Who was to say they would ever really deal with him? Which was yet another reason why Lyrai had to go west. Finding Mhysra was at the top of his priorities list, but confronting Yullik and ensuring he was dealt with was also pretty high.
“Good,” Myran said again, looking around the room at the men gathered in front of him.
Imaino stood behind his left shoulder, sturdy and steadfast and recently promoted in recognition of his bravery and persistence in surviving on the mountain throughout Aquila’s occupation. Myran’s other senior lieutenant, Fleik, was now Imaino’s along with Honra, recently a sergeant but proving himself eminently capable in his new position. Yordice, formerly under the deceased Captain Hylan’s command, had been shifted to join them, as had Hlen, a captain-in-training like Lyrai and Stirla, whose own captain had died in the initial siege.
They’d been through a lot, together and apart, having all been present for both the fall and recapture of Aquila, and it showed. They were a ragged, wounded, bedraggled lot who had aged far more than the single year it had been since they’d first fled this place. Yet they were stronger for it too and even more determined to rebuild what had been broken.
Of all the officers that had been present when the pirates first besieged Aquila, they were the only survivors. Two captains, five lieutenants, the dean, hundreds of Riders and students and miryhls were gone. The losses were unimaginable this time last year, but they had survived. Lyrai looked at the men standing in the room with him, unable not to think of those that were missing, and felt a strong sense of kinship with them all.
Then he met Reglian’s glinting gold eyes and knew that no matter how much he wanted to stay here and rebuild his home, he had unfinished business to clean up first.
A bell tolled in the valley, the solemn sound drifting on the clear summer air. Dean Myran smiled faintly.
“Lieutenants,” he nodded at Stirla and Lyrai, “you have an appointment with the healers, I believe. Archivist Reglian, was there anything else I might help you with?”
As Reglian gave a polite demurral and backed out of the room, Lyrai looked at his friend beside him and raised his eyebrows. As with all the walking wounded – which was pretty much everyone not strapped to a bed inside the infirmary – he had regular check ups with Mouse and the other healers to monitor the progression of his headaches, but there was no set time. Stirla too made regular visits as his broken leg continued to mend. Once again, though, it was his friend who picked up on their former captain’s meaning first.
“Aye, sir, I believe we do,” Stirla said, pushing away from the wall to salute the dean before resting a hand on Lyrai’s shoulder and steering him from the room.
As the realisation that he and Stirla were being dismissed with Reglian for company finally filtered through the ache in Lyrai’s brain, he managed to throw out a hasty salute. “Sir.”
Myran’s lips twitched with amusement. “Perhaps it’s time for Healer Morri to take another look at your head, lieutenant?”
Lyrai gave another wry salute, needing no time to process that one. “Aye, sir,” he agreed, while the other lieutenants smirked and snickered. “I’ll see that he does.”
“Lieutenants?” Myran called just as Stirla nudged Lyrai through the doorway. They paused and looked back at the man who had done so much to craft them into the Riders, the men, they were today. “Keep up the good work.”
It was praise and permission all in one. Lyrai caught Stirla’s eye again and they both saluted properly. “Aye, sir,” they agreed, and left the officers of Aquila to get on with rebuilding the citadel.
~ Next Chapter ~
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