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~ Previous Chapter ~
Sometimes help comes in the strangest forms.
“CUMULO.” Mhysra woke sobbing as her knees cracked against the ground. Her hands scrabbled across cold stone until she found a wall. Pressing her palms flat against it, she levered herself back to her feet, stumbling forwards again, not caring about the pain as she fought her way onwards.
She was walking, she realised, but didn’t care. She had to get out of here. She had to find Cumulo.
All she did was fall again. Get back up. Fall again. Her knees throbbed, her legs ached and her back was an unpleasant mix of fire and needles, but she had to keep going. She had to find him. She had to.
Unable to get up anymore, Mhysra dragged herself along with her hands, and when that strength failed her, she used her elbows. She didn’t know where she was going or what she was planning to do, she just had to move. When she reached a stairway, she crawled down it, wincing every time her hips bumped down a step. It seemed an endless agony before she reached the bottom, each drop now causing her to whimper, unable to keep the pain inside. She lay flat on the stone floor, shaking and breathless, unable to even cry as she waited for the pain to pass so that she could move on.
She had to move on. Cumulo needed her.
“Cumulo,” she whispered, struggling to get her elbows beneath her again. She failed and fell flat, banging her cheekbone against the rock. The hurt was so minor compared to everything else, she barely even noticed it, just lay flat, panting, aching and wishing she wasn’t so weak.
As she lay there, feeling beyond hope, shrieks split the air. Skittering followed, along with eager whistles, and she was soon surrounded by five happy little kaz-naghkt leaping around her, crowing with triumph at this new game. It was one she wished she’d never learnt to play, but her babies loved it. They nuzzled her arms, licked the sweat and tears from her face and jostled her to get up and go hide again.
Mhysra wished she could. She’d gladly play Hide and Seek with them if it meant she had the strength to move. It would be even better if she could send them to search for a way out, but she had no breath for words – and they wouldn’t understand her anyway.
After a long, playful round of encouraging tugs, they finally seemed to realise that she couldn’t move. Their whistles turned worried, their tugs turning to strokes. Nuzzling her face, they tried to lift her head, but much though she would have liked to assist, Mhysra couldn’t help them. She could only cry out as Ferocity hefted her head up and Triumph crawled beneath her chest, trying to force her upright but mostly just crunching her lower back in an agonising manner. Ferocity dropped her head and Triumph sprawled beneath her with apologetic whines.
Mhysra huffed as soothingly as she could, trying not to whine herself as Triumph wriggled their way free, further twisting her torso and pulling on her aching back. Victor shifted in front of her, as if he was about to try an idea of his own, but Ferocity pounced and began a squabble that swiftly drew Triumph in. Mhysra could only watch as the babies fought in typical kaz-naghkt style, wishing they could do it a little quieter. Her head hurt.
“Well, I guess this explains how they all got out of your room,” a familiar and most welcomed voice said somewhere behind Mhysra’s back. “I was worried the little monsters had learnt how to open doors when these two flapped shrieking into the kitchen. No doubt that will come with time. For now, though, this really won’t do at all.”
Boots stepped in front of Mhysra’s eyes, leather creaking as the wearer bent down. Riame’s a tilted head came into view, wearing a worried frown. “What happened?”
Mhysra thought of what had sent her running, the desperation to keep moving that still beat at her and settled on what she had the energy to say. “Dreams.”
Riame raised her eyebrows. “Did you fall?”
Mhysra lowered her eyes. “Crawled.”
Her friend made a sound somewhere between a laugh and a disgusted snort. “And here was I hoping you’d somehow found your feet again. Although if you had you’d probably have broken something new tumbling down here. Crawling. Crazy woman.” She shook her head and stood up again. “I’m going to need help. Don’t move.”
As if she could. Mhysra had no option but to keep lying there while Riame’s footsteps faded away and Glory and Tenacity joined their siblings’ spat. They were just starting to tire when the footsteps returned. Two pairs this time and Riame’s face was joined by another similar enough to be related. There was no concern in the second pair of dark eyes, only a glimmer of amusement.
“This is my brother, Rion. Rion, this is Mhysra.”
“Yullik’s little project.” Rion smirked, which wasn’t much of a greeting in Mhysra’s book. She frowned at him. He smiled. “You’re not going to like this next bit.”
Riame punched her brother on the shoulder. “You’re supposed to be helping.”
“Helping to move her, yes, helping to lie to her, no. That’s your job.”
Riame narrowed her eyes. “Your job is to shut up and do as you’re told,” she snarled. Mhysra blinked, and even the kaz-naghkt were impressed enough to stop fighting.
Rion smirked again and bowed. “As my dearest commands.”
“Get her feet,” Riame ordered curtly, before bending down to Mhysra again. “Sorry about him, and much as it pains me to admit, he’s right. This next bit is not going to be fun at all.”
Mhysra shut her eyes and took a deep breath. “Do it.”
A gentle hand stroked through her curls, as Riame said, “On three then.” Hands gripped her ankles, while another set slid under her shoulders. “One… two…”
Mhysra didn’t even hear three because pain took over, blood roaring in her ears as she was lifted and turned, her hips sagging and hitting the ground first. White exploded behind her eyes and the world went away for a bit.
~ Next Chapter ~
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