Some days you just have to be silly and play cards with miryhls.
“WHEN WILL IT stop raining,” Cereyn moaned, standing in the pallid light coming through the hatch, the wind ruffling his mottled feathers, his wings hanging limp. “I want to fly again.”
They all wanted that, Vhen thought sourly, patting his miryhl on the neck.
“Can’t you do something about it?” Caelo asked, nudging Rhiddyl with her elbow.
Intent on the cards in her hands, Rhiddyl shrugged. “It’s the Storm Season. It’s supposed to rain.”
“I thought you were supposed to be a storm dragon,” Sunshine sniffed, always quick to disparage her Rider.
Rhiddyl stiffened and drew herself up. Tall though she was, a sitting person was never going to be taller than a miryhl, roosting or otherwise, but she still looked mightily impressive as she glared at Sunshine, lightning snapping in her bright blue eyes. “I am not supposed to be anything. I am kin Tempestfury Clan Skystorm.”
“Then do something about the rain,” Cereyn begged, ignoring the glaring match between dragon and miryhl. “Please. I am so tired of soggy feathers.”
The other miryhls agreed, even as they peered over their Riders’ shoulders at the cards.
Eager to break the crackling tension gathering inside the eyries, Vhen gave an exaggerated sniff. “So am I,” he agreed, wrinkling his nose.
As expected, the miryhls protested loudly while the Riders laughed. Never one to ignore an insult, Sunshine was the loudest of them all, berating Vhen for being so rude.
Over by the hatch, Cereyn shuffled his soggy feathers and sighed. “We all stink,” he said, earning himself no friends.
Not that he seemed to want them. Vhen’s miryhl wasn’t just odd looking, he was very odd acting as well, delighting in driving his fellow miryhls to distraction.
“Ignore them,” Captain Stirla’s Atyrn, one of the leaders of the eyries, nodded at Taryn. “Hit me.”
Taryn sighed, no doubt regretting yet again teaching the miryhls how to play cards. Vhen rather enjoyed the experience, even if the miryhls were extremely bossy playing partners.
“Pick it up, pick it up,” Atyrn ordered, nudging Vhen in the back. Since Cereyn had been banned from ever going near a game, Vhen was a coveted free agent whose precious hands were vied over from the moment he set foot in the eyries on a Starday. As one of the biggest and most high ranked of all the miryhls, Atyrn inevitably won whenever she was around.
As she did during the game.
“Ha! Twenty-one again!”
Shame she couldn’t do it with a little more grace.
“I don’t know why I bother playing this stupid game!”
Cards were snatched from hands all around the circle and scattered with usual miryhl dramatics. Timid Pinwheel was the only eagle never to throw a tantrum. He used his wings and talons to gather the cards in instead, sweeping them towards Taryn to pick up.
“You could always change the dealer,” the princess offered, picking up the cards and stroking the inside of Pinwheel’s wing in thanks. The scrawny miryhl nuzzled her blonde hair and settled behind her while Taryn shuffled the pack. “Any human could do it.”
“No.” Atyrn shook her head. “It has to be you. You’re my lucky mascot.”
“Change her! Change her now!” Zett’s miryhl Strike cried, having a surprising taste for drama. It matched her startling markings very well, coming in flashes and starts.
“Let Caelo have the cards,” Fyra murmured, as quiet and withdrawn as her Rider was outgoing. Caelo thanked her miryhl with a smirk and wiggled her fingers for the cards.
“Absolutely not!” Sunshine flicked Caelo’s hand away. “She’s as bad as Cereyn.”
Hearing his name, Vhen’s miryhl perked up. “Can I play?”
“No!” the entire eyries chorused, players and watchers alike. Cereyn cackled.
“Give them to Orla,” Vhen suggested, since it seemed no one else was going to and Milk was too aware of being the smallest miryhl in the eyries to ever put herself or her Rider forward. “She’s sensible.”
“She is,” Pinwheel agreed stoutly, although it was somewhat ruined by the fact he was hiding behind Taryn.
“She definitely is,” his Rider agreed, offering the pack to the girl on her left. “Go on, Orla. Give it a try.”
“I don’t know how,” the Ihran demurred. “You should keep doing it.”
“Someone do it!” Strike exploded. “We are going to finish one of these blasted hands without going bust if it’s the last thing I do!”
“It would help if you didn’t keep twisting on nineteen and twenty,” Zett pointed out.
“Hush.” His miryhl covered his face with a wing. “How are we to achieve a Five Card Trick without a little risk? We must be bold if we are to win.”
Zett batted feathers away from his mouth. “We would have won the hand before last if you’d just let us stick -”
“Trifles.” Strike tried to muffle her Rider again. “Do not trouble me with them. Fortune favours the bold.”
“I thought it mostly favoured the captain,” someone muttered. Vhen wasn’t certain who, but there were often dissenting voices amongst the miryhls who weren’t quick enough to snag a human to play with.
“It is not fortune that helps me win,” Atyrn declared, raising her voice above the grumbling crowd.
“No, it’s that set of aces she keeps under her wing,” Fyra murmured.
Vhen hid his smile by picking up the cards Orla had dutifully dealt while the miryhls were messing about.
“It is my superior intelligence,” Atyrn said, all lordly and proud, ignoring all interruptions.
Silence fell over the eyries.
Vhen kept his eyes on his cards, able to see Caelo’s shoulders shaking at the edge of his vision. On his other side Taryn was holding very still indeed.
“Ha!” a familiar voice called from not nearly far enough away. “That’s a good one, cap! Tell us another!”
The rest of the flock broke into titters and Atyrn growled. “Say that to my face, you rotten broken egg!” Leaping over the card game, the largest miryhl in the eyries barrelled into the most cracked one of the bunch.
Vhen covered his face with both hands as Cereyn and his captain rolled out into the rain.
“Don’t worry, she won’t hurt him. Probably.” Lieutenant Cayn’s miryhl, Rannan, jumped into the space at Vhen’s back, much to the groaning disappointment of the others. “Now pick up the cards, there’s a good lad. We’ve got time for at least one game before she comes back.”
~ Next Chapter ~
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