Miryhls, mistakes and meanness, because no good deed goes unpunished.
ZETT STARED AT the eagle and gulped. It was taller than him, broader too, with a wickedly sharp beak that was currently far too close to his face.
“Another new recruit, is it?” the miryhl asked, speaking to Maressa even as it eyed him up and down. Dark, dark eyes, the brown almost black, rimmed in yellow and surrounded by glossy brown feathers the colour of drinking chocolate.
“Yep. He arrived this morning.”
The miryhl cracked its beak. “This morning?” it enquired, its voice a dry rasp that set Zett’s nerves on edge. “Late.” It glared at him. “That would never have been allowed in my day.”
“Princess Neryth brought him. He’s from Havia.”
The eagle drew back and the low chattering hum of the other birds ceased.
“Havia?” the lead miryhl repeated.
“Havia!” the rest of the flock whispered excitedly amongst themselves.
“Havia,” Maressa confirmed with a happy nod and cheerful bounce on her toes. “Isn’t he wonderful?”
The miryhl tilted its head and cracked its beak, clearly sceptical. Zett felt the same. He’d heard about the wonders of the great eagles of the Overworld, but no one had ever mention how big and imposing they were. Or how terrifying.
“Do you talk, Havian boy?” the miryhl asked.
Zett nodded. “Y-yes, um, excellency?” he hazarded a guess, having no idea how these birds were supposed to be addressed.
Maressa broke into a peal of laughter, while the miryhl puffed up its chest. “Excellency,” it murmured. “I like that.”
“Maegla preserve us,” a different miryhl muttered not quite beneath its breath. “That’s all we needed. If he wasn’t insufferable before, he’ll be unbearable now.”
A rumble of discontent answered and Zett almost smiled. Except the main miryhl narrowed its eyes and swung its head around, looking entirely too vicious for Zett’s comfort.
“Insufferable, am I? You try commanding you useless lot day in day out and see how you get on. It’s like herding pyreflies!”
“Better a pyrefly than a puffed-up pigeon,” an eagle shouted from the far end of the eyries.
“Pigeon!” the lead miryhl shrieked, leaping up and twisting midair to chase down the insult.
Maressa yanked Zett back just in time to save himself from a wing battering, and that was enough for him. He stumbled from the eyries on shaking legs and put his back to the nearest wall, gasping for breath.
“Aren’t they wonderful?” Maressa asked, laughing with delight as she twirled out of the door behind him. “I love miryhls. I can’t wait to have my own.”
Zett stared at her in disbelief. She was mad. All Rift Riders were, to pair themselves with those vicious beasts, day in, day out, and think it was a marvellous adventure.
No, thank you. There wasn’t a Havian alive who was a member of the Rift Rider corps, and now Zett understood why. The rest of the Overworld was mad; his country was the only sane one left. Which, considering his own experiences of blatant discrimination, was a rather lowering thought, but still, he would be delighted to return there. At once.
“Which is the way out?” he asked Maressa, stopping her mid-twirl.
“Out?” she asked, staring at him with limpid brown eyes. “Out where?”
Of this madness! Zett wanted to shriek, but tempered it to, “Of the building. I need to catch the princess before she leaves.”
“Oh, but you can’t leave!” Maressa cried, chasing after him as he grew tired of waiting and marched off down the nearest hallway. “You’ve only just arrived!”
Which had been his first mistake. No, that had been listening to the princess in the first place, then leaving Misthome and sailing to Etheria. But allowing himself to be ensconced in this place had definitely been a mistake, no matter what number it was.
“You can’t go,” Maressa persisted, grabbing his arm and whirling him to a stop.
“I can and I will,” he assured her. “I should never have come here. It was foolish.”
“Foolish or not, you’re here now,” she told him, surprisingly firmly for a girl who had been all smiles, bounces and bubbles since they’d met. “You’re not going anywhere.”
“Point me to the princess and I assure you that I shall,” he corrected.
She smiled wryly. “That’s just the problem. The princess has already left.”
* * *
TARYN WOKE FROM the best sleep she’d enjoyed in months. She was warm and comfortable and for once no troubles weighed on her mind. There had been no dreams, no dramas. It had just been sleep, deep, restful, perfect.
Until she opened her eyes and found Captain Stirla looking down at her, a grim smile on his face. “Wakey, wakey, princess, your carriage awaits.”
* * *
ORLA SAT NERVOUSLY on her new bed, hands clasped in her lap, wondering if perhaps she should have gone with the captain to her uncle’s house. Stirla had assured her that it wouldn’t be necessary, that he was perfectly capable of picking up her things and her “friend” and bringing them along to the mews.
She still probably should have gone, but she’d been feeling overwhelmed at the time and he’d left before she could argue.
She looked around the room again, still overwhelmed. It wasn’t such a very grand place, in fact it was kind of shabby and the fire smoked in the grate, but she’d been given a room with two beds, a desk and a couple of trunks, free to use while she remained in Nimbys. Tucked securely behind Kilpapan House, at the end of the garden, she would also receive breakfast and dinner at no charge.
It was unbelievably generous of the captain, and Orla didn’t quite know what to do with herself. Added to the fact that he hadn’t made her stay in the big house after all, she almost felt like weeping with gratitude. Except she didn’t do things like that.
Instead she sat on the bed, gripping her hands, and waited for her things to arrive.
The door slammed open and her bag came sailing across the room. She caught it, barely, and was winded from the force.
Taryn stormed inside, eyes wild, hair in disarray. “You!” she snarled, throwing her own things on the other bed. “Do you have any idea what you’ve done?”
Orla hugged her bag and shook her head. She’d tried to help. Was that so very wrong?
“Of course not, you’re a simpleton! Bumbling from one disaster to the next, smiling your sad little smile and getting coddled by everyone, not caring a jot when you destroy everything. Again! First North Point, now this! Stop ruining my life!”
The door frame rattled as Taryn raged out again, slamming the door so hard the candle fell over on the table. Fortunately it went out before rolling onto the floor.
Orla picked it up with shaking hands and tried to set it back in its holder. Failing, she put it down gently on the table instead and sat back on the bed, hugging her bag to her chest.
She should never have let the captain go without her.
More next Friday.
Thanks for reading!