Catching up with the miryhls.
THERE WAS NO flying that day. Although every Rider student enjoyed the chance to reunite with their miryhls, not a single eagle wore a scrap of tack. Probably for the best, Vhen thought, scratching an itch beneath Cereyn’s wing while his miryhl closed his unusual blue eyes and crooned happily.
“That’s it, right there. There. Ooh, higher. No, no, lower. Faster. Come on, Vhen, put your back into it.”
Happy chatter surrounded them as the students greeted their miryhls as if they’d been parted for months. Most were running their hands over feathers, preening and talking, while others simply hugged their eagles. Not so for Vhen and Cereyn.
“Ah, that’s it, that’s the spot. There. You can stop now. Stop, stop! That hurts. Ow, don’t be so rough! Are you a human or a wolf? Be a good chap now and scratch my leg, won’t you? I’ve got a rough patch that just won’t settle down.”
Sighing, Vhen bent obligingly towards the limb thrust in his direction. No sweet nothings ever passed between him and his miryhl. Cereyn wasn’t the sweet type, nor was he particularly interested in Vhen’s life or interests. He was a thoroughly odd bird, but Vhen couldn’t imagine having another one.
“Perfect, perfect. Hm. You need a haircut.” A rough beak knocked against the side of his head, more of a scrape than a preen. Cereyn scrubbed back and forth over Vhen’s hair, giggling.
“My hair is fine.” Vhen grabbed the bird by the beak to stop from getting scratched. “It used to be far longer than this.”
“Ooh, really?” Cereyn widened his blue eyes, so different from every other miryhl Vhen had ever seen, but perfect for this most peculiar of creatures. “Why’d you cut it? Shame? Disgrace? Lice?”
Petulant rage actually. It was nothing Vhen had ever spoken about – no one had asked – but it was possibly time to tell his miryhl at least a little about himself. Vhen opened his mouth.
“Ooh, a mushroom.” Cereyn had already moved on. “Come look, Vhen. Do you think it’s poisonous? Have a bite, then we’ll know.”
Vhen shut his mouth, closed his eyes and took a deep breath.
When he opened them again, Cereyn was staring at him, head tilted to one side. If Vhen didn’t know better, he might think the eagle looked concerned.
“Try this, it’ll make everything better.” Cereyn thrust a clenched foot towards him, mushroom pieces squishing out between his yellow toes.
Vhen arched an eyebrow. “What if it’s poisonous?”
“Then you’ll be dead,” the miryhl told him solemnly, “and you won’t have to worry about anything ever again!” He cackled and threw the chunks of mushroom against Vhen’s chest.
Vhen closed his eyes again, almost willing to believe in gods purely so he could believe in divine punishment. Because if Cereyn wasn’t a curse, he didn’t know what was. Except Vhen didn’t believe in gods or divine anything. Cereyn wasn’t a punishment heaped on him for his lack of belief, he was just a bad choice that had been made in a moment of uncharacteristic weakness, brought about by peer pressure and an overwhelming sense of occasion. However, Vhen would make the best of it; he had to.
Picking up pieces of mushroom, he tossed them into the lake.
“Fine show of gratitude that is! After I picked them special and everything.”
Vhen stared at his miryhl.
Cereyn huffed and fluffed up his feathers. He nodded at Vhen’s pocket. “Have you got a handkerchief? Your nose is dripping.”
As apologies went it was the best Vhen was going to get. He wiped his nose. “Better?”
Cereyn looked him over head to toe and flipped his wings in a shrug. “No worse than normal, I suppose.”
Vhen looked at his fellow students, so affectionately entwined with their miryhl partners, and laughed. He wouldn’t know what to do with such a partnership anyway.
Being the peculiar creature he was, Cereyn joined in.
* * *
TARYN COULDN’T BELIEVE how much she’d missed Pinwheel. In less than a year he had become the most important aspect of her life. She didn’t know what she’d do without him.
“I missed you, oh, I missed you,” he told her softly, running his beak through her unruly hair and huddling close. His wings trembled, but he always was a shivery creature.
Taryn rested a hand on his chest and pressed her cheek to his. “I missed you too,” she said, still astonished that she could say such a thing out loud. Where was the cool, guarded princess now? Taryn didn’t miss her. She’d always wanted someone who was entirely hers and Pinwheel fit perfectly inside the empty space in her heart. “The others haven’t been treating you badly, have they?”
She checked him over, searching for signs of scurf or loose feathers. Her poor Pinwheel had been through some rough patches in his life and stress always took a toll on him. She’d worked hard to rid him of his skin problems, with a lot of help from Aquila’s experts, but knew it wouldn’t take much to set him back. However, the bird before her was every bit as glossy and beautiful as the rest of the flock. Perhaps he was a bit scrawnier than most, and nothing seemed to calm his shakes, but otherwise he fit right in.
“No.” The miryhl shook his head. “Not at all. I’m p-part of a flock now. No one is mean to me.”
“They wouldn’t dare.”
Pinwheel ducked his head shyly against Taryn’s chest and she smiled at the miryhl behind hers. Strike was as impressive as any Rider could wish their partner to be. With mostly dark feathers contrasted by the striking white splashes on her wing, beak and around her eyes, she was a stunning bird and very protective. Taryn was forever grateful she’d partnered with Zett and become the leader of their raggedy, misfit flock.
“We take care of our own,” Caelo agreed from where she and her miryhl, Fyra, stood beside Zett and Strike.
“I’m so glad you p-p-picked me,” Pinwheel whispered against Taryn’s chest. Wrapping her arms around her miryhl’s head, Taryn smiled. “So am I.”
~ Next ~
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