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~ Previous Chapter ~
Catching up with Rhiddyl.
On board the Illuminai
“WE LEFT THEM?” Rhiddyl whispered, once Elder Goryal finished their account of everything that had happened after she’d been struck by lightning and fallen out of the sky. Because not even a Tempestfury was immune to a bolt directly in the chest. “We just let them go while we turned around and fled?”
“In order to save the Illuminai and all the sailors on board, yes,” Goryal said, with all their usual infuriating calm. “There was no other choice. You saw the storm yourself, Rhidystel. There was nothing natural in it and it only grew more ferocious the further west we travelled.”
“You let them go,” Rhiddyl said, unable to get past this small yet vital fact. “Despite the dangers and the unnatural storm, you let them go on alone, on miryhl wings, right into the worst of it, while you turned around and fled?”
“Yes,” Goryal said, their patience beginning to sound a little stretched. “With Reglian and Estenarix in support.”
“Estenarix!” Even in human form, Rhiddyl still maintained her fluty voice, which went shrill with anger. “She’s a Boulderforce. They needed you!”
“You needed me,” Goryal corrected her sharply, the chime of their voice sounding more like a crash of symbols. “You fell out of the sky, Rhidystel. Should I have left you to fall through the clouds, landing who knows where, injured to the point of death, with smoke and blood pouring from your chest.”
Rhiddyl shifted uncomfortably, staring down at her human hands, which had flushed from lilac to mauve. When they put it like that, she realised she sounded ungrateful.
“Thank you for saving me,” she muttered, almost sullen in her embarrassment.
Goryal didn’t seem to mind. They chuckled. “You are welcome, young one, and I understand your worry and frustration. It was not a choice I made easily, but it was the only one I felt able to make at the time. Our Rider friends are strong and capable and have survived many trials. Estenarix may be a Boulderforce with no power over storms, but she has plenty of other strengths that will prove useful to them. Then there is Reglian, whose own power cannot be discounted. I weighed the dangers and difficulties of the moment and chose to let them go. The Illuminai could not carry on, nor could it be abandoned, but to try and keep our friends with us while they were so determined to reach the mountains would have stretched my resources beyond reason. I chose to pour them into saving you and keeping this skyship afloat.”
Which again sounded all too reasonable when said in those calm, patient tones. That didn’t mean she had to like it, but since she couldn’t win she changed the subject.
“Why am I in human shape?”
Goryal smiled, no doubt able to read all her thoughts without even needing to peek inside her head. “I pulled you into this shape after your fall to make treating you easier, but by some stroke of either luck or misfortune, all this excitement has combined into a moment I have been expecting for a while.”
Feeling worn out by everything she’d recently learned and her own excess of emotion, Rhiddyl was too tired for, well, riddles. She propped her head in her human hands and sighed. “Please, Goryal, for once in your overly long life, can you just answer a simple question in simple terms?”
The elder chortled. “Very well, since you are still recovering. You have hit your first block.”
Rhiddyl raised her eyebrows inquiringly.
“It will happen to you – and all dragons – throughout your Change Time. You have made so many changes of late, testing your power and control constantly day after day, that your body has had enough. Your magic has shut down for a time, blocking your ability to change and leaving you temporarily trapped in this form.”
Rhiddyl looked at herself again, at her lanky human limbs and bruise-coloured skin and grimaced. “How long will it last?”
“No idea,” Goryal said, with far too much cheer for Rhiddyl’s liking. “As I said, I have been expecting it to happen for some time, since you’ve been changing so much and making swift progress with gaining control. But I could not know exactly when. As such, I cannot even begin to predict when you’ll change back.”
Which explained why she was in the eyries instead of a nice comfortable bed inside one of the human cabins. Rhiddyl had been dreaming of those cabins, wondering what they looked like and whether she’d ever have a chance to experience a real human bed for herself. They were supposed to be soft, something that hadn’t held much appeal to her tough dragon body but sounded like heaven when she was trapped in this squishy human version. At least down here, if she had a sudden shift back to her full form, she would only end up cramped and uncomfortable rather than smashing through the side of the ship. She doubted the stern and commanding Countess Kilpapan would approve of that.
She looked at herself again and wrinkled her nose as she rubbed the smooth skin of one arm. “Why am I this colour? I liked being indigo.”
Goryal gave a very uncharacteristic shrug. “At first, I thought it was because of your illness, and perhaps it still might be – you’ve used a lot of power and are still drained. It might also be a natural attempt to fade to a more human-friendly shade.”
“I look like a bruise,” she grumbled again.
Goryal smiled. “I’m surprised you don’t feel like one. That was quite a strike you took.”
Now that they mentioned it, she did ache rather a bit. She studied her chest, noticing the pale starburst right in the centre, close to her heart. It hurt when she poked it, until Goryal slapped her hand away.
“Stop that. I worked too hard growing that skin back to have you poking holes in it.”
Rhiddyl shook out her stinging hand and smiled. “Thank you for the effort.”
“You’re welcome, young one.” They smiled back. “Don’t fret. Your dragon form will return soon enough.”
Rhiddyl nodded and looked herself over again with a resigned sigh. “I know.”
“And it could have been worse,” the elder added with a touch of wickedness. “I could have picked the chicken.”
~ Next Chapter ~
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