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Taryn to the rescue!
“HELP ME!” SEEING Rhiddyl burst out of the lake like a sea monster of old, Taryn ran to Sunshine and grabbed the miryhl’s wing. Rhiddyl hit the ice and sank. “You’ll have to carry me.” Milk was too small and Pinwheel was fetching help.
For a long moment she feared the snooty eagle would refuse. She eyed Taryn doubtfully. Rhiddyl broke through the ice again, too heavy for it to hold her weight and fighting too hard to stay afloat for long.
Sunshine dropped her wing. “Get on.”
“Look after her,” Taryn ordered Milk, who stood over the wounded Orla. They watched open-mouthed as Taryn scrambled onto the miryhl’s slippery back.
“Hold on!” Sunshine ordered.
“To what?” Taryn’s question ended in a shriek as she grabbed handfuls of feathers and tried not to slide straight off.
Rhiddyl was up again, cradling three figures under her arm, scrabbling at the snow with her claws. Ice smashed as she flapped her wings and flailed, desperately searching for something solid to pull herself onto.
Three miryhls flapped around her, screaming advice and encouragement, begging her to put their Riders down.
Rhiddyl was beyond hearing, eyes wide and wild, nostrils flared with strain and distress. She needed help or all of them would drown.
The dragon went under again.
Taryn took a deep breath, put her fingers to her lips and whistled as loud and as sharp as she could.
The loose miryhls swung towards her, while Sunshine shook her head and scowled over her wing at her Rider. “You could have warned me.”
Ignoring her, Taryn risked a wave, beckoning the other eagles closer.
Rhiddyl broke the ice yet again, her struggles weakening as she huffed and panted, swimming sideways against the edge of the shelf. It crumbled and cracked away from her and she slid back into the water with a pitiful whine.
“She needs somewhere solid to climb onto,” Taryn called to the circling eagles.
“Your powers of observation astonish me,” Sunshine muttered. “We would never have realised that on our own.”
Continuing to ignore her, Taryn looked at the undisturbed field of snow below. “Figure out how far the cracks run, see if it’s just in that one spot. Maybe we can direct her somewhere else.”
The miryhls didn’t look convinced, but as Rhiddyl surfaced once more, no one had any better suggestions.
“Split up,” Strike ordered, and the three miryhls scattered, while Taryn tugged to get Sunshine’s attention.
“Put me down.”
Sunshine cocked her head. “Are all Riders this cracked or is it just you lot?”
“It’s us,” Taryn said. “We’re special. Take me down.”
Sunshine snorted but for once kept her opinion to herself as she swooped towards the snow. With no tack to hold her in place, Taryn didn’t wait for the miryhl to land, just judged her moment and used the slippery feathers to her advantage for once.
Her landing jarred through her heels and she let the momentum carry her backwards and down, just like Swordsmaster Gedanon had taught them in his lessons. It was a lot easier to roll back to her feet in the practice arena than on snow, but given the way the ground was moving, Taryn wasn’t too keen on standing just yet.
“Graceful,” Sunshine said, flapping directly above her, the closest the eagle could come to showing concern. “Now what?”
Taryn wasn’t actually certain, since she was making this all up as she went. “Help the others,” she called, because the downdraft from her wings was not helping her.
“What if you fall in?”
“I won’t,” Taryn said with a lot more confidence than she felt. “Go. The sooner we find solid ground, the sooner we all get out of here.”
The golden miryhl finally stopped arguing and swooped away, joining the other miryhls as they quartered the ice around where Rhiddyl had risen, gasping and sobbing, clawing without success. Her tail lashed the water, her wings spreading out across the surface, trying to keep herself afloat. She clasped the three humans against her chest, half-turned on her side, trying to keep them out of the water. When the ice continued to break ahead of her, she keened and sank.
The commotion set the broken ice bobbing, but although the ground rose beneath Taryn’s feet, it did it as a single sheet. It wasn’t as good as solid ground, but it wasn’t completely broken yet either. She dared to get to her feet, moving cautiously, alert for any warning creaks or cracks. The ice held.
Releasing a tight breath, Taryn took a careful step, then another, speeding up as her confidence grew. Rhiddyl surfaced again, about fifty yards away. This time she didn’t panic or flail, she rolled, wings spreading, chest heaving as she thrust the three humans up to her keel bone. They didn’t move.
Exhausted, marooned in the water, Rhiddyl groaned, stretching out her neck until the tip of her nose rested just on the edge of a large piece of ice. It held, for now.
Taryn ran, whistling for the miryhls’ attention once more. “Can you pick them up?” she called, waving towards her human friends when Strike glided over her head.
“No,” Strike called back, circling around. “They’re too heavy. Even if they weren’t wet, we’re not strong enough to pick people up from the ground. We’ll drop them.”
Putting them straight back in the water. Taryn skidded to a halt, the ground sinking beneath her weight. A sharp crack had her scrambling backwards, still separated from her friends by ten feet of ice and another ten of water.
Frustrated, she looked around and saw Cereyn and Fyra jumping up and down in the snow thirty or so yards away.
“What in the Overworld are those fools up to now?” Strike growled overhead, wheeling around to fly to them. Taryn stared as the jumping miryhls were joined by Sunshine. All three started digging through the snow.
Hope rising, Taryn backed away from the weak ice and ran again.
“What are you shell brains doing?” Strike called, swooping over them.
“Searching for solid ground,” Cereyn shouted back. “Like you told us to.”
“I didn’t tell you to jump around and dig like a bunch of brainless nakhounds.”
“No, we came up with that ourselves,” Cereyn sounded proud of himself, and stamped his foot on the ice. “Look what we found.”
Strike dropped out of the sky just as Taryn reached them.
“Maegla preserve us,” Rider and miryhl breathed, because it wasn’t just ice Cereyn had found, it was rock.
Now all they had to do was get the dragon onto it. Four miryhls and one human turned to look across the damaged ice and disturbed water to where Rhiddyl floated. They stared at Taryn. She swallowed. “Take me to them.”
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