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In which Taryn is a Poor Little Rich Girl. Again.
EVERYTHING WAS GOING wrong. Taryn glared at the table in front of her and rubbed at the smear of beeswax she’d spread across the surface. Another day, another set of chores. First Mate Dakka met each morning with a broad grin, delighted at the prospect of ordering Taryn about for another day. If only she wasn’t in hiding. If only she could tell that woman what she really thought about her. If only her father —
Taryn brought herself up short on that thought. Her father wouldn’t care. He probably wouldn’t even notice that his daughter was toiling away like a servant even if he was on board this very ship and Taryn was the one serving him dinner. He’d paid little enough attention to her during the course of her life, not even when she’d lived under the same roof. Since she’d moved away, he hadn’t written to her or seen her once. If he knew she was on this ship, he’d probably be irritated at her for lowering the tone of the family, but he certainly wouldn’t bother to do anything about it. That would take effort and effort should not be wasted on daughters.
Huffing, Taryn scrubbed at the table, taking out all of her frustrations on the dark wood and leaving it gleaming in her wake. In truth cleaning the captain’s cabin was the least of her chores. Compared to most of the things Dakka set her to, cleaning the cabin was quite pleasant. The beeswax smelled clean, the candlesticks polished up to a satisfying shine and it was nice to be able to look out of the window and not have to worry about the wind or the rain.
Taryn did just that, even as she wiped a cloth over the glass. The panes, like much of the rest of the room, were nearly spotless. Whatever else his faults, Captain Derrain Kilpapan was a tidy man of tidy habits. He didn’t make any extra work for his crew, but his crew wanted him to have the best – although how that translated into Taryn cleaning his cabin, when she barely knew which side of a brush was used to scrub, was neither here nor there.
She sighed and wiped the resultant mist from the glass, staring at the endless clouds stretching back the way they’d come. Clouds, clouds, clouds, as far as the eye could see. Not a peak or crag in sight. After leaving Ihra, they’d struck out straight across the open Cloud Sea, aiming straight for Imercian and Nimbys.
Which didn’t suit Taryn’s plans at all. She’d stowed away on the Miryhl Heart because she’d overheard Derrain talking to Mhysra about his recent trip to North Point. Taryn had never been to the place herself, but she knew they had a Rift Rider selection school there, one that didn’t come to Nimbys for the Choice, as the Storm Peaks and South Imercian students did. A plan had fallen instantly into place inside Taryn’s mind and she’d decided then and there to take control of her life and stowaway aboard Derrain’s ship.
Only he hadn’t gone to North Point. They’d travelled slowly and leisurely north through the Lowlands before heading for Ihra instead. Taryn had bided her time, told herself to be patient, prepared yet more plans – only for Derrain to say they would be heading straight back to Nimbys.
Nimbys! The place Taryn had spent the majority of her life and the last place she wanted to go. Blasted Nimbys where too many members of her family – and extended family – would be waiting to pounce on her, to bundle her back into their care and take her back to the country where she could wither and grow old and senile like her mother and middle sister.
At least Lyrosa had had the sense to snag herself a foreign prince, sailing to the opposite side of the Overworld to make a life of her own. But Taryn didn’t want that. She wasn’t old like Lyrosa had been. She was still young enough for adventure, for fun, for something other than an interminable choice between a parent who ignored her very existence and one who could no longer remember who she was. Not that Taryn pined overmuch for her parents, her siblings more than made up for any lack in that area, but Taryn didn’t want to be cosseted by Hylena or dictated to by Lyrai either. She wanted a life, and she’d thought she’d seized it.
Nimbys. For the gods sake, why hadn’t she jumped ship on Ihra when she’d had the chance?
Glaring at the never-ending clouds, whose very existence was as much of a curse as Taryn’s current life, she turned away, knowing why she hadn’t jumped at Ihra and despising herself for it. She’d been too scared, too weak, too well protected and foolish.
Stowing away on the Miryhl Heart might have seemed like a big adventure, but in truth she had risked nothing. Derrain was a Kilpapan, the adopted brother of her sister-by-marriage. Taryn had never been in any danger from him, even if he hadn’t been one of the nicest, most easy-going men she’d ever encountered. There was never any chance that he would have reacted badly once she’d been discovered hiding behind the salted pork. Derrain wasn’t the sort to throw anyone off his ship, let alone the royal-blooded almost-sister of his oldest, closest friend.
Taryn’s great adventure hadn’t been much of an adventure at all. She’d gone from one safe house to another, endangering nothing, risking nothing. Achieving nothing.
“You thought yourself so brave,” she muttered bitterly, turning her back on the cursed clouds and throwing her cloth into the bucket with all the other dirty ones. As she moved to gather up her cleaning supplies, ready to descend back below, she caught the sound of voices in the next room. The soothing rumble was clearly Zephyr, a miryhl as large and laidback as her captain, but Taryn couldn’t tell who the eagle was talking to.
Tiptoeing closer, she crept towards the double doors that had once divided the captain’s state room from his sleeping quarters. Except on this ship the state room and sleeping quarters occupied the same space, with only a heavy curtain providing an illusion of privacy. The other half, where once a captain of Derrain’s stature might have met and dined with other ship’s captains and important dignitaries and guests, was where Zephyr now lived.
On most ships of the Miryhl Heart’s size, suitable quarters for miryhls and other flying creatures were often built on the lower decks. The flagship of the Kilpapan fleet, the Illuminai, could carry more than a hundred miryhls in its eyrie, if it gave up a bit of storage space. The Miryhl Heart had eyries too, down at the base of the ship alongside the bullwings and horsats intended to ferry cargo and messages respectively.
Not that Zephyr spent much time down there, not when she was the only miryhl aboard and Derrain’s back troubles prevented him from ever climbing down so far – at least not without great effort and a lot more time than a captain of a ship this size could spare. Which was why Zephyr had her own quarters right next to his, the pair of them closer than many a married couple Taryn had known and far closer than she was to her siblings.
She envied them that. Even if they could no longer fly together, Taryn wanted someone in her life who meant as much to her as Zephyr did to Derrain. She’d seen it back in Silver Vale too, where Cumulo and Mhysra and Lyrai and Hurricane remained as close as could be, despite their many and varied difficulties. Like Derrain, none of them were Rift Riders now, but it didn’t matter. They had been once and their bond remained.
Taryn wanted that. She wanted to be a Rift Rider. She wanted a miryhl of her own.
But she’d missed her chance. She’d chosen the wrong trip to stow away on, she hadn’t been brave enough to jump when she should have done. She was too much of a coward to take the risk and it was too late to go anywhere now. There wasn’t a patch of land in sight and hadn’t been for more than a month. They were far out in the middle of the cursed Cloud Sea without even a rock to stand on.
Next stop Nimbys, where all Taryn’s adventures would come to an end.
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