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~ Previous Chapter ~
Time to talk to a god.
“UM, EXCUSE ME? Auriaen, uh, sir?” Mhysra felt like an idiot. Partly because in order to stay upright she had lean so hard on Jaymes that the poor lad was buckling under her weight. Partly because she was covered in mud and dust and a bit of blood while trying to talk to a god. Mostly, because she was so wretchedly nervous that her palms were sweating and all she was doing was trying to get Dhori’s attention. Dhori! Her friend and long-term companion. A man with whom she’d gone through selection school, exams, the first year of Aquila, the siege, the fall, the evacuation to Etheria, the trip through the Cleansed Lands, the Battle of Nimbys, then finally the fight to regain Aquila itself. He had been alongside her every step of that painful journey, quiet and competent and always there to help.
He was her friend – and right now she was almost too scared to talk to him.
Another boulder shattered, making both her and Jaymes flinch. They staggered for a moment, trying to regain their balance. Jaymes nudged her with his hip.
She grimaced and cleared her throat loudly. “Er, Auriaen?”
Another boulder. More dust, more debris and a sharp crackle of lightning that made her nose itch and her head hurt.
Enough was enough.
He turned, eyes blazing silver, skin shining with a luminous golden light. He didn’t look the least bit human now; she and Jaymes took a hasty step back. The miryhls shuffled uneasily and everyone seemed to be holding their breath. Storm tension tightened the air as those powerful eyes settled directly on her.
Now that she had his attention, Mhysra didn’t have the faintest idea of what to say. “Um… Auriaen?”
He frowned, blinked and most of the glow faded. His eyes were still far too bright, but she was used to that from the dragons.
“Dhori. My name is Dhori.” Dhoriaen Aure. He hadn’t tried too hard to change his name.
Mhysra smiled ever so slightly. “Dhori,” she agreed, and everyone seemed to relax.
“What is it?” he asked impatiently, running a hand through his hair and frowning as it got stuck in the dust and muck. He stared at his hand in confusion. “Where did all this come from?”
“That would be you,” Atyrn said gruffly, ruffling her feathers and puffing up her chest, clearly a little intimidated by Dhori’s freshly revealed secrets and doing her best to hide it.
Dhori looked confused.
“You’ve been blasting the biggest rocks to bits,” Mhysra explained, feeling better now that he was acting more like her friend. “But there’s nowhere for the dust and debris to go.”
“Except here,” Jaymes added, indicating himself and the layer of dust that lay so thick on his skin it hid his freckles entirely.
Dhori looked around their sheltered ledge and lifted his feet carefully out of the pebbles and rocks that had gathered on top of them. “Oh.” He rubbed his head and sighed. “I apologise. I lost my temper.”
“Was that what it was?” one of the miryhls muttered – Mhysra thought it was Zephyr. “I thought it was a tantrum.”
Dhori’s smile was crooked. “It’s been a while. I guess I’ve been storing it up.”
The miryhls snorted in amusement, while Latinym bated from foot to foot. “You know that’s not good for you.”
“Old habits, my friend. Old habits.” Dhori crunched over the rubble to stroke a hand over his miryhl’s neck. He pressed their foreheads together and closed his eyes. “I’m sorry.”
It was a touching scene but didn’t help solve any of their current problems. Jaymes nudged Mhysra again and she glared at him. He widened his eyes imploringly. She sighed in defeat.
“Uh, Dhori?” she asked, hating to interrupt his sweet bonding moment with Latinym, but, well, they were still trapped under who knew how many tonnes of rubble and had no idea where their lost friends were.
Stroking Latinym’s neck again, Dhori looked up. “Yes. Of course.” He crossed back to the rockslide and pressed a hand against it. Power built into a stormy crackle, but it sank into the rock this time instead of blasting it to pieces. Eyes closed and frowning, Dhori hummed thoughtfully, then pulled free.
“Dead?” Atyrn breathed the word no one else dared. It was bad enough that they’d been lost, but Mhysra had still hoped that they’d found shelter similar to their own. But if they were gone…
“No.” Dhori shook his head. “I mean missing. They were there, I felt them earlier, but they’re not anymore.”
“Are they alive?” Zephyr whispered.
“They were.” Dhori touched the rock again but didn’t use his power this time. “More than that, I cannot say. I’ve lost them.”
“Then it’s time we went and found them,” Atyrn said sternly, ruffling her wings. “This pocket is all very well when the roof’s falling in, but I’m ready to move on. Agreed?”
No one argued; they turned to look at Dhori instead.
“Agreed,” he said, turning his back on the rock fall. “And look over here.” He walked into the shadows at the far end of the ledge, using a glow globe to illuminate a crack – which was more of a passageway. “A way out. How convenient.”
Mhysra nudged Jaymes, who helped her hobble closer. “Too convenient?” she suggested, letting go of Jaymes to run her fingers over the walls. Even though she hadn’t taken much time to explore the ledge before, she was almost positive this passage was new. “Yullik is fond of games.”
“He also likes an audience,” Dhori said, placing a hand on her aching back and filling her with cool, soothing power. “If he’s taken the others away, he’ll want us to catch up so that we can watch what unfolds next. It would be rude to keep him waiting.”
“We wouldn’t want that now,” Atyrn strutted up behind them. “Manners are important.”
“Yes,” Dhori smiled, “they are.” Wrapping his arm around Mhysra’s waist, he pulled her hand over his shoulder and nodded into the tunnel. “Come along then, friends. Destiny awaits.”
~ Next Chapter ~
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