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~ Previous Chapter ~
ATYRN’S SHRIEK ALERTED Stirla. He whirled, ready for a new knot of enemy. Instead he saw a miryhl fall, dragged down by the kaz-naghkt, who screamed and cackled with glee. Horrified, Stirla froze, sword slack in his hands as the enemy that had been attacking them turned away, eager to join the slaughter.
“No!” Atyrn roared, flapping after them, pouncing on and clambering over the bodies as she fought her way through. “Cumulo!”
Freed by her anger, Stirla raised his sword and charged.
JAYMES SAW THE fall, unable to believe it. Not Cumulo, never Cumulo. The Wingborn was everything bold, wild and brash. Brave and true. Undefeatable. It couldn’t be true.
“Cue!” Zephyr broke out of their formation, Atyrn and Jaymes close behind.
“Ember,” he called as he ran, aware that his dragonet was never far away. “Help him!”
“Lift me,” she said, her voice warm and fierce inside his head.
Barely slowing his sprint, Jaymes bent to heave an arm beneath his dragongift. She was getting too big to be carried, but was still light enough for him to lift and throw.
A rush of joy flooded him as his dragonet spread her wings and flapped hard, lifting high above the carnage of the cavern. Peaking at the place where Cumulo had been caught and dragged down, she bent double and dived. Flames ignited, turning her into a living fireball, and she smashed into the frenzied enemy with a boom that rattled the walls.
Baring his teeth in a grin, Jaymes smashed into the outer circle of the enemy and, with Zephyr and Argon on either side, battled his way forward.
LYRAI HEARD MHYSRA’S scream and turned in time to see Cumulo fall. Furthest from the action, he saw the others racing to the rescue ahead of him. A flash of silver reached the spot first – Dhori vanishing beneath the heaving mass as Latinym wheeled overhead and dived into the mass. Then Stirla and Atyrn struck and were swiftly lost from view. Jaymes’ arrival was the most dramatic as he hurled Emberbright into the air and she immediately set fire to the kaz-naghkt.
Lyrai ran, eager to join them, but he was on the wrong side of their defensive formation – and there were too many kaz-naghkt in the way. Even though most had broken off to join the frenzy surrounding the fallen Wingborn, there were still plenty to delay him as he slashed, hacked and stabbed his way to the rescue.
Stabbing one creature through the chest, he swung around as he applied the fatal twist and saw a golden light gathering around the hole in the ceiling.
Using his foot to push the kaz-naghkt off his sword, Lyrai forgot about rescuing Cumulo as the golden light grew bigger and stronger. He started running back to the centre of their camp. Where they’d left their worst wounded. Back to Derrain and Hurricane. Back to Mhysra.
Yullik got there first.
Crashing through the ceiling like a falling star, Yullik ses-Khennik slammed into the ground with a boom that threw them all off their feet.
Thrown on his back, Lyrai raised his head, fighting for breath and saw Yullik rise unharmed to his feet. Right between Lyrai’s bonded miryhl and the woman he loved. Lyrai threw out his left hand, groping for his dropped sword.
Still glowing with bright golden light, the destroyer of Aquila and enemy of the Overworld, looked at the carnage his kaz-naghkt had caused and smiled. Then he held his out hand to Mhysra and bowed.
“We meet again, Lady Wingborn.”
Lyrai’s fingers brushed against an eagle-headed crossguard and he closed his hand around the hilt. Then he rolled to his knees and stumbled to his feet. Raising the eagle’s blade before him, he ran the last few strides and attacked.
FURIOUS ABOUT HIS fall and weakened after his fight with Goryal, Yullik was slow to look up. He’d been smirking at the Wingborn, enjoying the horror in her eyes as she tried to crawl away from him. He could see his kaz-naghkt had been hard at work already and was hoping they’d taken care of a few Riders and miryhls by now.
When he heard footsteps rapidly approaching, he didn’t think much of it. Until a line of fire opened up across his forearm, slicing from wrist to elbow as he jerked backwards, barely saving himself from losing a hand.
Inconvenient but hardly debilitating for a man of his blood, Yullik looked up, snarling at his attacker.
Ice numbed his entire arm, leaving him curled over in agony.
What was this horrible new pain? Yullik had never experienced anything like it.
It had been a slash then too, also underground, delivered by this very same blond lieutenant and that very same death-cursed sword.
Clenching his fist with effort, Yullik defied the pain and straightened, glaring at the lieutenant who had planted himself between Yullik and the Wingborn. Blasted hero.
“You.” He spat a blob of burning blood towards the Rider’s feet, still repairing the internal damage from his fall. “I remember you.”
The Rider gripped his sword in both hands, holding it firmly in front of himself as he replied, “I remember you too.”
Naturally. Yullik was hard to forget. “Going to fight me again, little Rider?” he taunted, trying to catch the man’s eye, remembering how easily he’d distracted him before.
The stubborn man must have remembered it too, because he kept his eyes trained on Yullik’s hands. Blast and burn him.
“I am going to beat you,” the lieutenant growled. “It’s time to end this.”
Yullik laughed at such delightful, foolish arrogance. “Are you indeed? Boy, I have fought with dragons and they did not defeat me. What makes you so special?”
A roar from the crowd of kaz-naghkt made Yullik turn his head, startled. He’d thought he had his creatures under control, but he’d forgotten the other Riders and miryhls. He’d forgotten the Wingborn he’d trapped down here.
He’d forgotten a lot of things, he realised, stumbling backwards as the lieutenant charged.
He’d hoped to distract the Rider, but had been distracted himself by the sight of the Wingborn miryhl rising from his kaz-naghkt like a bloodied sea monster of old. Now Yullik bared his teeth as the fight resumed across the cavern and he barely formed a sword in time to fend off the lieutenant’s next attack.
Bright blue runes sparked as that cursed blade rang against Yullik’s one of flame and steel.
“I’m not special,” the blond lieutenant growled as the strike brought their faces in close. “And I’m no dragon. I am a Rift Rider – and a Rift Rider is never alone.”
Yullik smiled, using brute strength to knock the lieutenant backwards. “Neither am I,” he said, and his kaz-naghkt horde screamed as Yullik threw himself into the fight.
~ Next Chapter ~
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