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All right, with any luck this will be the last extra update and then we’re back on track.
In other news: ah, Wingborn woes.
GROGGY AND ACHING, Mhysra sat propped up against her pillows with no memory of how she’d got there. She couldn’t move. Weariness weighed her down, sinking deep into her wrongly healed bones. Her shoulders weren’t straight, her spine was at an awkward angle, her hips thoroughly uncomfortable, but she couldn’t move. It even hurt to blink.
Her babies whistled at her, but even they sounded sleepy – or perhaps just far away.
She closed her heavy eyes and fell back into sleep again.
IT WAS SUMMER in Nimbys. The meadows above the city were carpeted with flowers, the grass high and waving in the breeze. Throwing out her arms, Mhysra spun in laughing circles, until she fell down, head a dizzy whirl.
A shadow rippled over her and she looked up. A miryhl soared, big, bold and beautiful.
He didn’t hear her.
“Cumulo!” she shouted, laughing, but he glided easily onwards and away.
Mhysra rolled onto her front, folding her arms and resting her chin on her wrists, watching as the miryhl flew down over the mountain and over the city far below.
“Cumulo,” she whispered, wanting to get up, to run after him, to scream and shout until he heard her, until he came back for her.
But the sun was warm on her back, spreading heat through her, making her as lazy as the bumblebees who droned drunkenly from one flower to another. The air was full of sweetness and she was warm, so very warm. Yawning, she tried again to force herself to rise and run after her Wingborn, but the comfort was overwhelming and she sank down to rest her chin against the soft grass before drifting silently away.
* * *
“MHYSRA!” THE SHOUT spread over the lonely, empty peaks. “Mhysra!”
A rock fell into some distant ravine, rattling and cracking as it rolled. Nothing else but the ghostly echoes of his own despair answered him.
Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Cumulo had been searching this mountain for six days, confident that he’d finally found his Wingborn, only to be crushed by having no way to reach her. There was a fortress here. He could see the shape of it, though most was carved into the heart of the mountain itself. He’d found doors – but they’d been guarded by kaz-naghkt or too small for him to squeeze himself inside. There were no windows.
Never before in his life had Cumulo wished he was smaller or less impressive to look at, but he wished it with all his might right now. If he’d been smaller, closer to Wisp or Onyx in size, perhaps, then he could have wriggled in through any number of unguarded doors and scoured the inside of the fortress with every bit of thoroughness as he’d scanned, scratched and studied the outside. He could have found his Wingborn by now and carried her off to safety. They might even have reached Etheria by now, safe and warm back amongst the Riders and their friends.
Cumulo screamed, loud and wordless, in short, sharp cries. It set up a clamour amongst some ravens far below. But although the corvids were brave enough in numbers to mob golden eagles and their larger white-tailed cousins, no strength in numbers was enough to make them tackle him. Instead they preferred to follow him around in the hope that he might go hunting and leave something behind for them to peck at and scavenge.
Slumping down, Cumulo curled his talons in the dust and surveyed his surroundings. To the north, the spine of the range rose to its highest, sharpest peaks, where snow was ever constant and the glaciers groaned and creaked. To the south the range widened, still high, still snow-capped, still dangerous but with deeper crevasses between each one. Some were so wide they even allowed the Cloud Sea to flow between them.
Not like here, where the mountains might have been smaller, but they were as densely clustered as hedgehog spines – and just as pointed. He hated it. It was a bleak and soulless place, with little to no sign of growth and absolutely no hint of green. Even the little stand of trees he’d found to shelter in, beside a frothing waterfall, had brown-needled branches. But that might have been because of the season. Winter came early to World’s End.
As if to prove his point, clouds began clustering on the horizon, building up from the high and angry north, banking up against the mountains and promising sleet and snow to come.
Ruffling his feathers, Cumulo tilted his head away from the weather and his mind away from his Wingborn. Only for now, only for a moment. Instead he focused on the rocks and ravines, searching for life amongst the shadows. There wasn’t a lot up here, and what he did find was often wary, but his hunting skills were improving all the time, and with such treacherous surroundings it was often easy to force his prey into a mistake. Not the goats, never those blasted goats. They were the fattest, most tempting morsels available, but the cursed things were too good at survival. His only hope would be to take them at night. Impossible. He was even more blind than they and ten times more vulnerable.
So despite viewing two separate small herds from his vantage point, he let his gaze drift on. Until he spotted a flock of ravens circling on the wind – a sure sign that food was nearby. Opening his wings, he let the air tease his feathers and lift him gently upwards. He leaned into it, rising up onto the tips of his talons, and pushed off. Soaring on the wind, he circled for height and drifted south in search of food.
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