Storm Wings: Chapter 9, Part 1

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Previous Chapter ~


Words and Deeds


“SOMETHING STRANGE IS going on,” Derrain confided to Zephyr, as he groomed her in the last of the winter light. After snowing most of the day, leaving gloom and slush behind, the clouds had drawn off just in time to produce a glorious sunset. However, since Derrain and his miryhl had agreed it was too cold outside to enjoy it, they’d retreated to the eyries with the rest of the bitterly complaining eagles. Still, with so many inside, it was reasonably warm there.

It wasn’t only the miryhls’ grumbles filling the stuffy barn. Nor was he the only one choosing to spend his unexpected free time with his miryhl. With Stirla busy on Captain Hylan’s business, and too many Riders with nothing to do inside Kaskad’s flimsy walls, the eyries were a popular destination. Especially as it was the one place, following Lorfyn’s humiliation at Stirla’s hands, that the HSF were not permitted to go.

It was amongst these understandable mutterings and complaints, that Derrain had noticed the odd behaviour.

“Like what?” Zephyr asked lazily, lifting her head so Derrain could preen the feathers on her chest, just as Mhysra had taught him.

“Have you seen anyone interesting today?”

Zephyr lowered her beak to blow against his hair. “Stirla was by first thing, but got called in to see Hylan before he so much as touched Atyrn. The princess has been in and out, tending her little miryhls. Stirla came by around noon and carried her off somewhere, the pair of them with their heads down, neither looking happy. Usual behaviour for them.” Her voice was gruff with pleasure as he ran his fingers through her feathers, lightly brushing her skin.

“Anyone else?”

Her head fell against his shoulder and her wings drooped as he ran his hands along her sides.

Smiling, Derrain twitched his shoulder. “Zeph? Have you seen anyone else?”

“Hmm?” she murmured, head sliding off his shoulder with a jerk. She straightened and ruffled her feathers. “A bunch of newcomers came in late last night, and their Riders have been back and forth all day to settle them in. They’ve kept mostly to themselves, but rumour is that General Dreffen has finally arrived. Stop laughing at me.” She nudged his chest, forcing him back a step.

“Because you never laugh at me,” he chuckled, tweaking her wingtip. “I knew something odd was going on. What’s finally brought the general back? And is that why Stirla’s riled up?”

She slapped him with her tail, clamped his arm in her beak and pulled him forward. “Preen,” she ordered, and only when he obeyed did she consider what he’d said. “Surely it should seem stranger that he wasn’t here? After so much has happened, why wouldn’t the general be in Kaskad, where most of his Riders are? As for Stirla, he’s in a permanent rile these days.”

“True,” he agreed, smiling as she purred under his hands. “And I don’t know why it’s odder to have the general here than not. Maybe because Captain Hylan’s been giving the orders since before Aquila fell, so it just feels right with him in charge. And I don’t think Stirla’s been happy or comfortable since Lyrai left.”

“Maybe he misses him.” Zephyr’s voice was growing lazy again, golden eyes half-closed.

Derrain sighed sadly. Stirla wasn’t the only one; he missed his friends too.

“I’m sure they’re all fine,” Zephyr murmured, but there was no conviction in her tone, just languid enjoyment. “Cumulo would never allow Mhysra to be harmed. And Dhori’s with them. He’s a survivor.”

Her speech was slowing and slurring, so Derrain stroked across the arch of her wing, grunting as she collapsed against him. If he hadn’t been so solid, she’d have knocked him over.

“Sitting down now,” she murmured, sinking to the floor, so he could keep stroking her back.

“Hedonist,” he accused.

She rested her beak on the floor and sighed. “Shut up and preen.”


IT HAD BEEN a long and tiring day for Stirla, starting with that uncomfortable meeting with the general and followed by an equally miserable talk with Neryth. Then he’d worn himself ragged chasing after supplies, packing and trying to find a more suitable mount for the princess. Now, finally, everything was ready for an exceedingly early start on the morrow. Apart from one last detail.

Stirla wasn’t even sure it was one he wanted to go through with yet, but a half-made promise kept haunting his memory, and he knew he had to at least say something. Which was why he was returning to the eyries one last time that day, on the trail of the last of his proper students. Following a tip-off from Brath, Stirla picked his way between low perching miryhls and ducked under roosting birds, until he reached the farthest corner.

There, huddled beneath the feathery heap more commonly known as Zephyr, was Derrain.

“Having fun?”

Derrain looked up with a distant smile, more relaxed than Stirla had seen him in months. In fact it wasn’t until this moment that he’d realised how tense and miserable Derrain had grown since Misthome. Some lieutenant he was not to notice the misery of his most easy-going student. Lyrai was so much better at this. He was the one who looked after their students’ emotional well-being; Stirla just made sure they were enjoying themselves.

Not that there’d been much to enjoy of late.

Oblivious to his officer’s inner turmoil, Derrain yawned and nodded, still running his hands through his snoozing miryhl’s feathers. “I think I’ve found the only warm place in Kaskad.”

Since the entire base was a wind trap, too close to the Cloud Sea, and in the grips of the coldest winter Stirla could remember, he wasn’t about to disagree. Especially as all that could be seen of Derrain was his face and the tips of his moving fingers.

If the lad hadn’t been so big, he might have worried for him. Not that Zephyr would intentionally harm her Rider, but she was snoring, so he doubted she’d noticed if she accidentally smothered her boy.

When Stirla said nothing, Derrain shook his head and yawned again, attempting to wake up. “Did you want me for something?”

Still uncertain, Stirla hedged, “Do you remember when we talked back in Misthome?”

Derrain looked at him a little oddly, but he didn’t ask the obvious question. They’d talked often in Misthome, including one highly memorable conversation in which Stirla had landed poor Derrain with the role of looking at the fledgling HSF. All of that, however, paled beside the most important talk the two of them had ever had.

“You’re leaving.”

Stirla nodded. “General Dreffen is sending me to Nimbys. With a message for Captain Myran, amongst others.”

Derrain blinked, his relaxation fading. “Alone?”

Maegla, he didn’t want to do this. He reluctantly shook his head.

For a moment the student perked up, then his shoulders slumped. “Neryth.”

He nodded.

Derrain sighed. “But of course. Do you ever get the feeling you’re being punished? Or that the Gods are laughing at you?”

“Every damn day.”

The lad’s lips twitched and his miryhl began to stir, alert to the change in her Rider’s mood. “I best getting packing then, hadn’t I?”

Stirla closed his eyes, sighing deeply.

“I won’t be left behind,” Derrain told him, his determination finally waking Zephyr up. “Not this time. You said I was with you, sir. You promised.”

Stirla looked the younger man in the face and nodded. He had promised. And, if he was completely honest, he needed Derrain. Needed someone he could trust absolutely to stick with him over the mountains, and not just to help baby-sit Neryth either. No, he didn’t want to put the last of his students in so much danger, but by Maegla, this lad had earned the right to choose.

So he dredged up a smile and clasped Derrain’s shoulder. “Be glad to have you, Rider.”

Derrain grinned, his tension vanishing as he wriggled out from beneath his miryhl. “Go back to sleep, Zeph,” he ordered softly. “We’ve another early start tomorrow.” Then he turned to Stirla, eyes bright. “So, what should I pack?”

~ Next Chapter ~

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Storm Wings: Chapter 8, Part 3

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Previous Chapter ~

Time to talk.


“I HAVE NO doubt the miryhls of Sanctuary will welcome your friends without fuss. There at least there is no likelihood of them alarming the locals.” General Keipen was clearly down to the last shreds of his patience as he faced the dragons, dragonets and overly well-travelled Riders outside the base after supper. Mhysra had long wished to meet the youngest general the Overworld had ever seen, but at that moment she’d have gladly passed up the privilege. Keipen was not a happy man, and with men of short tempers it was wisest not to be on the wrong side of it.

To make matters worse, her successful attempts at avoiding Lyrai had been ruined by this summons. As if a stomping general wasn’t bad enough, her eyes kept straying to where the lieutenant was standing, shoulders hunched uncomfortably. It reminded her of how he’d been two days ago and what his last meeting with the angry general had led to.

“It’s how they’ll get there that worries me.”

As Keipen paced past him, Lyrai looked up, straight into Mhysra’s eyes. Heat flashed through her and she glanced hurriedly away. Reglian stood opposite her, shoulders braced against Rhiddyl’s shoulder. His posture was a direct contrast to the general’s: relaxed, comfortable and amused. When he stepped forward to intercept Keipen’s pacing, Mhysra dreaded what he would say.

“I can’t understand what all the fuss is about.”

Mhysra, Corin, Jaymes, Lyrai and even Dhori winced.

The general stopped, nostrils flaring as he attempted to contain the last scraps of his temper. “The fuss, as you call it, is concern for the people of Storm Peaks.”

“They live beside the Storm Surge, General. Do you really expect the sight of a dragon will send them flailing in panic?”

“One dragon, at a distance, no,” the general growled. “But according to you, I have seventeen full grown adults making their way north as we speak, across the entire length of  the country. I know humans’ eyesight is poor compared to your noble selves, but do you really expect no one to notice?”

Mhysra bit her lip as Goryal shot Reglian a quelling glance. “Perhaps it will relieve your mind to know that in all likelihood our friends have reached Sanctuary by now.”

Their gently chiming voice was at its most soothing as they approached the general, making subtle shooing motions at Reglian behind their back. Smirking, the archivist rolled his shoulders and returned to leaning against Rhiddyl’s side. The young dragon was anxiously watching the scene unfold, flexing her silver claws in the moist earth, while the two dragonets slept peacefully between her wings.

Keipen raked all three dragons with a sour look. “It would be a great relief, elder, if I didn’t have to worry about what they might do next.”

Goryal acknowledged this with a calm smile. “In that case, General, I believe your course is simple, as my friend Reglian implied. Albeit with a distinct lack of tact,” this was added with a pointed look in the archivist’s direction. Reglian just shrugged. He seemed to delight in riling up the general whenever he could.

Keipen narrowed his eyes and looked at Lyrai, reminding him that he’d brought this plague down upon them all. It was the lieutenant’s turn to shrug, though with a touch of apology. Mhysra bristled on Lyrai’s behalf. If the general hadn’t realised yet that the dragons acted only to please themselves, without the least regard for humans or their wishes, then the man was a fool. Lyrai was as much to blame for the dragons as he was for the sun rising each morning.

For the first time in two days, she met her lieutenant’s eyes without blushing. He accepted her supportive nod with a faint smile.

“What then do you suggest we do?” Keipen demanded of Goryal.

The pale dragon linked their long fingers together, clasping their hands in front of their chest with a beautiful smile. “We must travel to Sanctuary.” They turned to the watching Riders, rainbow eyes aglow. “It will be such a treat. I have always wished to go. Miryhls are so fascinating. And from there it will be easy enough to reach Nimbys,” they added, looking at the general once more. “To meet up with the other Riders.”

When no one responded to this astonishing announcement, their smile faltered. “Is that not what you wanted?” they asked, looking from one Rider to another. “To travel to Nimbys and find your friends?”

“Sanctuary?” Lyrai coughed, the first to find his voice. “We must travel to Sanctuary?”

Goryal’s expression turned quizzical. “A simple enough journey, is it not?”

Mhysra blinked, her head reeling at the prospect.

A strangled laugh broke the confusion, and she was astonished to realise it came from the general. “Why not?” Keipen chortled. “Yes, why not? After all, we’ve got dragons back in the Overworld for the first time in over a hundred years. Let’s make it a double and become the first humans ever granted access to Sanctuary. Why not? If anyone can achieve it, it’ll be Lieutenant Lyrai and his stupendous students. Storm Wash, Storm Surge, Sanctuary. Why not hit three for three?” Wiping his eyes, the general shook his head and left, bursts of periodic snickering drifting behind him as he walked back up the slope towards the base.

Blinking their huge eyes in surprise, Goryal turned to the remaining Riders. “Humans are not permitted to enter Sanctuary?”

“Not normally, no,” Dhori said, rubbing his forehead as if it ached. “But like the good general said, if anyone were to be allowed in it would be us. I suppose this means packing again.”

“Just when I was getting comfortable too,” Corin grumbled, climbing up Rhiddyl’s elbow to pluck her dragonet from the dragon’s back.

“Another day, another destination,” Jaymes agreed. “Well, I did join the Rift Riders because I wanted to travel.” He scooped up his own dragonet and fell into step with Corin as they headed back inside.

Goryal was frowning. “Perhaps I have made an error. I made my suggestion without full possession of the facts. Would it be better if myself and Reglian flew to Sanctuary alone to ascertain the intentions of our fellow dragons?”

Lyrai raked a hand through his hair and shared a glance with Mhysra. “No,” they both said.

“But if it is forbidden -”

“No,” they repeated. After raising such a fuss about the unknown dragons, the general was hardly likely to unleash two more on the general public.

The dragon elder’s shoulders drooped in defeat. “I do not understand humans.”

Rhiddyl rumbled her agreement, while Reglian patted them both on the shoulder. “Is that not half the fun of this mad expedition? Come, if we are leaving again in the morning, we should take the chance to explore this astonishing place before we go. Shake off that fragile body, Goryal, and let us fly.”

With a sigh of assent, the elder shrugged off their human form like an old cloak and took to the sky with the effortless grace of a butterfly, made tiny by the hulking forms of Rhiddyl and Reglian, spiralling upwards on either side.

Which left Mhysra and Lyrai alone, staring up as the dragons drifted higher and higher. Mhysra glanced at her lieutenant and found him watching her. She dropped her eyes. Would it be rude if she just walked away?

“I’m so pleased things aren’t awkward between us,” he drawled, making her face heat. When she looked at him, he smiled. “Because I would really hate that.”

She blinked, surprised, then smiled too. “So would I.”

Sighing, he rolled his shoulders as if removing a heavy weight and stared up at the wheeling dragons. “Would it help if I said I was sorry?”

Oddly enough, no, it wouldn’t. No matter how embarrassed she’d felt since the kiss, the last thing she felt was regret. The thought that he might had never crossed her mind. Now it made her feel awful.

His eyes searched her face, reading her expression, and he softened. “Because I’m not, you know.” At her stunned gape, he laughed, sounding a little bemused. “I should be. I’m your lieutenant, you’re my student. I shouldn’t have done it. But I’m glad I did.” He held out his hand.

Relieved beyond measure, she stepped closer and slid her fingers into his. “So am I.”

“You’ve been avoiding me,” he murmured, drawing her closer.

She ducked her head and peeked coyly up at him through her lashes. “Maybe a little.”

“Stop it.” He tugged her into his arms and held her close. “I much prefer you here. Even though I shouldn’t, and the miryhls will gossip about it.”

She chuckled and breathed him in, delighted to be near him again. She’d missed him.

After a moment she pulled back, relaxed enough to tease. “Cue told me about your talk with Hurricane.”

He rested his forehead against hers with a groan. “We have our miryhls approval.”

“It’s always nice to know that Cumulo likes my friends.”

“Friends?” Lyrai pulled back to look at her again, and she waited, heart pounding, wondering what he’d say next or if she’d said something wrong. Then he grinned, linked his fingers through hers and brushed a kiss across her knuckles. “I like being friends with you.”

Unable to speak for the bubbles of happiness popping inside, Mhysra smiled, swayed and lifted her face to his. Her eyes drifted shut as he pulled her closer, his breath brushing her lips.

A shrill whistled pierced the air. “Hey, you two!”

Startled, they jumped apart and found Corin, Jaymes, Dhori, Fleik and Honra laughing at them from the slope leading up to the base.

“When you’ve finished canoodling, we’ve got packing to do, remember?”

Lyrai narrowed his eyes at Fleik. “Canoodling?” he said incredulously. “I do not canoodle.” When Mhysra arched an eyebrow and tugged at where he was still holding her hand, he tightened his grip and shot her a wink. “I’m just spending time with a friend.”

“Ooh, a friend,” Fleik cooed, elbowing Honra. “Did you hear that? I thought you and I were his friends, but he’s never kissed me. How about you, Honra?”

When his fellow lieutenant shook his head, too busy laughing to speak, Lyrai gave a derisive snort. “Why would I want to kiss you? I’ve heard all about your technique from Jasper.”

“Jasper?” the older lieutenant spluttered, as Mhysra and Lyrai reached them. “What’s that little gossip finch being saying? I’ll pluck his tail and paint his primaries pink!”

“Aww, don’t take it too hard, sir. Maybe Lieutenant Lyrai could give you a few pointers,” Corin suggested slyly. “Seems all the miryhls approved of his technique. And you are his friend.”

“Ha!” Fleik grumbled, grabbed Lyrai before he could dodge and planted a smacking kiss on his lips. “There you are, friend. Critique that.” Dancing away from Lyrai’s retaliatory swipe, he collided with Corin.

“I’d be happy to give you a friendly critique, sir,” she offered, batting her eyelashes and patting his cheek. “Just between friends.”

“Gah!” Lyrai yelled, gripping his hair and glaring at Mhysra. “This is all your fault.”

“Me?” she cried, laughing too much for indignation. “You started it.”

“Well, as your friend,” Dhori interrupted, spinning her into his arms for a quick kiss. “I’ll finish it.” Releasing the giddy Mhysra, he pecked Lyrai on the cheek and hooked an arm around both Jaymes’ and Corin’s necks to do the same. “There, all done. Can we go pack now, please?”

“What about me?” Fleik called plaintively as Dhori dragged Corin and Jaymes up the slope. “Aren’t I your friend too?”

“And how come I only got a peck on the cheek?” Corin demanded indignantly. “Does that mean Mhysra’s a better friend than I am? How can she possibly be? She’s always so moody?”

Shaking her head at the ridiculous lot of them, Mhysra smiled at the placid Lieutenant Honra, linked arms with him and walked back to the base in blissful silence.

~ Next Chapter ~

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Storm Wings: Chapter 8, Part 2

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Previous Chapter ~

I’m not sure this trip to Kaskad is going to go down as Stirla’s favourite…

6th Cold

“YOU WISHED TO see me, sir?” Stirla stepped cautiously into the office, nodding respectfully at Hylan sitting behind his desk, and blinked in surprise to find he wasn’t alone. “Captain.” He sketched an airy salute in Nordei’s direction, then froze. A third man stood with his back to the window, arms folded, waiting for Stirla to enter. “General.”

No wonder Hylan had worded his summons so oddly. Dreffen, General of the Greater West, was an imposing man. He was as tall as Stirla, if not quite so broad, with a posture as rigid as a Heighlen glacier. His appearance was military neat, from the glossy shine on his leather flying boots to the sleek steel grey moustache on his face. A younger son of an Imercian duke, his family’s position and wealth had marked him out for a successful career in the Riders from day one. The bars on his shoulder and medals on his breast suggested he’d earned most of it.

Being in his presence, however, made Stirla nervous. Dreffen had served the Riders for over forty years, more than thirty of which had been memorable. Stirla had spent many a night in Aquila’s taverns trading Dreff stories and admiring the man. That didn’t make him a comfortable presence. In the five years since his ascension to general, Dreffen had gained a reputation for high living and impossible orders. The general liked to throw his weight around – and woe betide any Rider unlucky enough to disrupt his pleasure.

As the silence in the room built to uncomfortable levels, Dreffen stepped away from the window. “Come in, lieutenant, and close the door.”

Uneasy though he was at cutting off his escape route, Stirla did as he was told. Taking a deep breath, he faced his commanding officers again. Captain Nordei looked like he’d bitten something sour, while Hylan was expressionless, the occasional shifting of his weight the only indication that he wasn’t happy. Stirla feared the worst; he was getting used to it.

Linking his arms behind his back, the general paced around Stirla in a slow, wide circle. “So this is the infamous Lieutenant Stirla, is it? One of Captain Myran’s young cubs, about whom I’ve heard so much. You’re the joker, the survival expert and a strong man to have at one’s back. An all round good fellow, with all the promise of a fine future captain.” He paused in front of Stirla, studying him with knowing gaze. “Or so they say.”

Turning on his heel, Dreffen circled in the other direction. “Praise is a funny thing, lieutenant. On the surface it can sound so very impressive, but underneath there are shadows. A joker is just another way of describing insubordination, a tendency to bend the rules, a lack of respect for boundaries, social, military and political. A man like that needs to be able to survive, whether in the wild or in town. He also needs to be strong, to extricate himself from situations where his charm or glib tongue fail to do the trick.”

He stopped in front of Stirla again. “Oh yes, lieutenant, I’ve seen your like before. I know just what to do with Riders like you.”

A cold shudder rippled down Stirla’s spine at the calculation in those blue eyes, but he held it in. He knew better than to show weakness in front of a man like this. Just as he knew better than to protest against the false claims about his character. Men like Dreffen were never wrong.

“Where is Captain Myran now, Hylan?” Dreffen asked, not taking his eyes from Stirla’s.

“Nimbys, sir, the last I heard.”

“And when did you last hear from him?” the general wondered, turning from Stirla to pace in front of the captain’s desk.

“Barely a half-moon ago, sir, but it was dated the beginning of Storm,” Hylan replied, taking the letter out of his top drawer to check.

“Three months. Such a long time,” Dreffen tsked, pacing back again. “This disruption caused by the loss of Aquila cannot be allowed to continue.” He stopped in front of Stirla and raised a challenging eyebrow. “Someone should do something about it. Don’t you think, lieutenant?” He touched the bars of rank on Stirla’s shoulder, running his finger in a firm line next to them, right where a captain’s stripe should go.

Stirla swallowed hard. Anyone who’d experienced the fall of Aquila would want to be there to wrest it back, to avenge the fallen, to reclaim what had been lost. But the additional prospect of a promotion at the end…

Stirla straightened his spine. “I am yours to command, sir.”

General Dreffen smiled. “Indeed. You’ve been long away from your captain, lieutenant. Perhaps it’s time we returned you to him.” He paused and leant back against Hylan’s desk, narrowing his eyes in thought. “I have a message I wish to send.”

Much as Stirla would have liked to see his old captain again, and find out who else had escaped into the east, the prospect of a two to three month journey across the high north through the depths of winter did not fill him with joy. Not that he had much choice. The general was dangling a promotion over his head and his earlier remarks about insubordination still stung. Besides, Myran wasn’t the only person in Nimbys Stirla would like to see.

He took a deep breath and inclined his head, repeating, “I am yours to command, sir.”

“Excellent.” Dreffen tapped a finger against his jaw and settled more comfortably against the desk. “Then I shall make appropriate use of you to dispatch other letters along the way. I always like to make the best use of my resources. I trust it will not take too long for you to prepare for this journey, since I would like you to leave as soon as possible. The weather at this time of year can be so changeable, there’s no knowing how long it might take. Still, a man with your reputation won’t be put off by a little hardship, eh?” The general’s smile wasn’t entirely friendly, and Stirla had never hated a list of orders more. He knew he could handle the conditions, even if he didn’t like them, but the man’s manner grated. With a tiny hint of promotion, he knew he could set any challenge he liked and Stirla would jump. He hated it.

Gritting his teeth, he inclined his head again and bowed. “With your permission…?” Since he had so many impossible things to do, he’d rather get started as quickly as possible. He hadn’t even had time for breakfast yet.

“Of course.” The general smiled, all affable geniality. “And perhaps you’d like to take Princess Neryth along.” The glint in his blue eyes acknowledged that dragging the princess across the inhospitable north was the last thing Stirla wanted to do – and that he’d be doing it anyway. “I hear she wishes to experience the full breadth of Rider life, and that she’s formed something of a friendship with you. I would hate to disrupt your bonding. She might also wish to visit her newly married sister in Nimbys. We must encourage these diplomatic ties whenever they are so good as to present themselves.”

Stirla forced a smile, even as his hands balled into tight fists. “I would be honoured, sir.”

“Good man.” Dreffen dismissed him with an approving nod. Then, just as Stirla turned the door handle, he said, “One last thing, lieutenant.” He waited until Stirla glanced over his shoulder, surprised to find those mocking blue eyes had turned serious at last: a glimpse of the man all those stories celebrated. “Tell Captain Myran to be ready. The time for action is finally at hand. Maegla guide and guard your journey, lieutenant. I will have those letters to you by morning. Fly fast, Stirla, and well. Aquila has need of you.”

~ Next Chapter ~

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Storm Wings: Chapter 8, Part 1

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Previous Chapter ~

I love Hurricane.

Moving On


“ABOUT THIS KISSING thing that you and Mhysra did.”

Hurricane’s soft rasp almost made Lyrai drop his tack. Rooted to the spot, he wondered if his miryhl could possibly have said what he thought he’d just said. Perhaps if he didn’t respond, Hurricane would shut up.

“I’ve been talking it over with Cumulo…”

Or perhaps not. Lyrai shut his eyes in despair.

“And once he explained to me what kissing actually was, and that it wasn’t a true mating, nor are you about to build a nest somewhere – not that humans lay eggs, according to Cumulo -”

“Because he’s such an expert on human behaviour,” Lyrai muttered, dropping Hurricane’s saddle onto his back with unusual force.

“Well, actually, I believe he is. He is Wingborn, and unlike most of us has spent his entire life surrounded by people, almost part of a human family. He knows far more than the rest of us about what you people get up to and how you think, thanks to his bond with Mhysra. But anyw- oof, did you have to pull so hard? I don’t think the strap will go that tight. I might not be able to breathe during flight.”

His breath during flight wasn’t what Lyrai was worried about. “Sorry,” he muttered, not feeling particularly contrite as he loosened the breastplate.

“Where was I?” Hurricane scratched thoughtfully at the dusty floor. “Oh, kissing. Yes. I must say it sounds far from pleas-unt,” the miryhl grunted as Lyrai yanked his girth extra tight. “Apparently humans enjoy such things. But Jasper said it looked like Fleik was trying to eat his lady’s face the one time he – Are you all right, Lyrai?”

Shoulders shaking, head buried against his miryhl’s neck, Lyrai nodded weakly. He wondered if Fleik knew what his miryhl had been saying about his technique behind his back. He was getting a whole new perspective on miryhl gossip this morning. If it hadn’t concerned him so closely, he’d have been howling with laughter. Instead he was quite embarrassed, hugely mortified and mildly hysterical, in all the wrong ways.

“Well…” Hurricane eyed him doubtfully. “You should know that Cumulo and I approve.”

“Approve of what?” he demanded, yanking the bridle over his miryhl’s head.

“Kissing,” Hurricane said, stretching his beak to make sure the strap around it wasn’t too tight. “Well, you kissing Mhysra. And possibly her kissing you, if it works that way, which I think it does.” He scratched his head, while Lyrai banged his forehead against his fist repeatedly.

“I’ll admit I wasn’t sure at first, but since Cumulo assured me there would be no eggs or nests and therefore no need for grounding, I think it’s a marvellous idea.”

“Gods, help me,” Lyrai muttered.

“Of all the humans I’ve met, she is definitely my favourite. Er… after you.”


Hurricane ruffled his feathers with a happy sigh. “Yes, I think it may turn out quite favourably, even if you do have an egg together some day. I was surprised by how well Cumulo took it, all things considered.”

“Who told Cumulo?” Lyrai asked, feigning nonchalance. “Was it Mhysra?” He may have to kill her if so, kiss or no surprisingly spectacular kiss.

“Oh no.” Hurricane shook his head firmly. “She wouldn’t look Cumulo in the eye at all yesterday. He was terribly concerned, until Wisp passed on the gossip, which she got from Argon, who got it from Latinym, who says he heard it from Blaze, who -”

“I get the message,” Lyrai interrupted before he went through every miryhl in the eyries. Great Gods, did this mean that all the Riders knew too? Including the general? “Maegla,” he whispered, closing his eyes. He’d known kissing his student was a bad idea, but… well, it was too late for that now. And if he were truly honest, he didn’t regret it. It was only a kiss. Or so he’d tell anyone who reproached him. “Who told first?”

Hurricane baited from side to side, humming thoughtfully. “Fleik.”

“Of course.” He sighed. His old friend had always liked to spread the misery around. He liked gossip and there was no better place to swap and trade tales than the eyries. At least Stirla wasn’t here.

“Don’t blame him. He swore Jasper to secrecy.”

Lyrai shot him a flat look. “And see how well that worked out.”

Hurricane shrugged. “We do have ears, Lyrai, and you Riders have never been very good at keeping your voices down. Just because we’re not allowed to talk to humans, doesn’t mean we can’t chat amongst ourselves.”

There was a long silence in which Lyrai tried to pull all of his hair out with his fists.

“I’m not sure you should do that,” his miryhl said worriedly. “It’s only just started growing back after that wretched dragon nearly killed you. Oh, don’t hit your head, Lyrai, please. You’ll hurt yourself.”

“If only,” his Rider growled. “If bloody only.”

Looking desperately around for help, Hurricane blurted, “Shall we go flying now?”

“Gods, yes.” Lyrai stepped away from the wall and jumped into the saddle. “Get me out of this madhouse before I lose all trace of my sanity.”

Without another word Hurricane did as he was asked.

* * *


A COLD WIND blew in through the cave mouth, the voices of the others echoing in the tunnels. Mouse hadn’t wanted to return, fearing the worst, worried his memories would feel too real here in the place where it all went wrong. Standing alone in the spot where Willym had taken him, he waited…

And felt nothing. The cave had been emptied since the attack, the beds and bodies removed, the weather allowed in. Even the bloodstains were gone. It was just another cavern on the mountainside, whose stones held many secrets and revealed none.

“The last of the food’s gone,” Imaino said to Silveo. “Someone’s been back.”

Silveo looked around the empty cave, searching for signs of recent use. “We’ve no way of telling how long ago.” He crouched to run his fingers over the unresponsive floor. “And we have nothing to eat.”

Imaino slapped him on the shoulder. “We’ll find something,” he said cheerfully. “At least we’re not so alone up here as we thought.”

Mouse watched them talk and felt a dull throb of grief as he missed the similar relationship he’d once had with Healer Nehtl. “How do you know it wasn’t taken by pirates?” he asked, his voice dull and flat. He watched the hope fade from his companions’ eyes, but couldn’t bring himself to care. “They were quick enough to take everything else.”

Silveo’s grey eyes were full of pity, making Mouse feel angry.

Imaino’s jaw clenched as his hands formed fists. “We’re not alone up here,” he told Mouse in a low growl. “We are not all that is left. We can’t be.”

The anger twisted in his gut and Mouse felt a travesty of a smile curve his lips. “Let’s hope our friends outnumber our foes.”

Imaino looked away. “It hardly matters with another blizzard on the way. Grab a bow and quiver, Mouse. We’re going hunting.”

~ Next Chapter ~

Thanks for reading!

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A Courtship of Dragons: Part 50

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A Courtship of Dragons is a M/M Romance short novel (approximately 60,000 words) told in short scenes, between two young dragons, Estenarven kin Boulderforce Clan Stoneheart and Mastekh kin Rainstorm Clan Flowflight. It’s pure fluff ‘n’ stuff and not intended to be anything other than that.

|| First Part || All Parts || Last Part ||

The end! At last <3


28th Storm Month

IT TOOK SEVERAL days for both of them to get back on their feet. Mastekh recovered first, since he had so much less to recover from. Except the pain of watching Estenarven sleep so soundly, knowing he’d almost lost him.

All for a stupid lightning-struck rock. A lightning diamond. Not a true diamond but still precious to many. Yet it was worthless to Mastekh. He held it in his hand now, turning it this way and that to admire the rainbows permanently trapped within the fissures carved by heat burning its way through the crystal’s structure, scarred and forever changed, beautiful and unshattered.

Glorious in its own way, but it was worth nothing when weighed against the cost of Estenarven’s life.

Mastekh had almost lost everything, all because of a stupid tradition and a ridiculous idea.

“Is that for me?”

Mastekh looked up and smiled at where Estenarven leant against the door of his tiny room. A casual pose, the kind he’d so often seen his Boulderforce adopt, especially when he was in a flirtatious mood. Necessary today, since he was still too weak to stand unaided for long.

Patting the bed beside him, Mastekh moved over to leave a space and looked at the diamond again. Even without being a true diamond, it was rare and precious enough to still count. “Happy s-seventh gift.”

Estenarven lurched from the door to the bed and sat down with a grunt, draping himself over Mastekh’s shoulders with a sigh. “Let me see it.”

Mastekh held it up in front of both their faces.

Estenarven rested his chin on Mastekh’s shoulder and hummed approvingly. “Very pretty. I’ve never seen one like that before.”

“It’s y-yours.” He tucked it into the pocket of Estenarven’s robe and gave it a pat. “That’s the l-l-last of your g-gifts.”

“Does that make you mine now?” the Boulderforce rumbled, wrapping his arms around Mastekh’s waist and nuzzling his neck.

“I always have been,” he replied, aiming for playful and missing by a human mile.

Estenarven didn’t seem to mind as he planted a hand on the bed to support his weight, using his other hand to tilt Mastekh’s face towards him. His expression serious, he cupped Mastekh’s cheek and rubbed his thumb along his jaw.

“Good,” he whispered. “Because I’m yours, Puddle, completely.”

“Is that m-my seventh g-g-gift?” he teased, managing to hit the right tone this time.

Estenarven smiled. “Only if Khennik hasn’t eaten the real one,” he murmured, leaning in for a kiss.

Mastekh turned his head aside, suddenly too curious for distractions. “Eaten it? W-why would he e-eat it? What w-was it?”

“Nothing important,” Estenarven grumbled, kissing Mastekh under the chin since he couldn’t reach his lips. “Hardly matters now.”

“It m-matters to me,” Mastekh protested, squirming off the bed and getting to his feet.

Estenarven collapsed facedown in the blankets with a groan.

“What w-w-was it?” he persisted, prodding his lover’s back. “T-tell me!”

“Can’t it wait?” Estenarven’s complaint turned into a very un-Boulderforce-like squeak as Mastekh poked one of his rare ticklish spots beneath his arm.

“G-give me my g-gift,” he ordered stubbornly, tickling Estenarven some more. “Or else.”

“Or else what?” Estenarven asked, rolling over and grabbing Mastekh’s arm before he could poke him again. Yanking hard, so that Mastekh sprawled across his chest, putting them nose to nose, he smiled smugly. “Wotcha gonna do now, Puddle?”

Contemplating the gift that lay beneath him, Mastekh spread his hands across Estenarven’s broad chest, petting possessively. It was still hard to believe that all of this was his to touch whenever he wanted.

“Not so bossy now, eh?” Estenarven chuckled.

“Oh, I don’t kn-know,” Mastekh mused thoughtfully, hitching himself higher up Estenarven’s chest. “P-positions like this g-give a dragon i-d-deas.”

“Oh?” Estenarven enquired innocently, craning his neck and angling for a kiss.

“Mm.” Mastekh obliged, brushing their lips together and running his hands down Estenarven’s chest, then up again. Straight into his ticklish armpits. “G-give me my g-g-gift!”

“Ack!” Estenarven rolled sharply, throwing Mastekh to the floor and barely preventing himself from landing on top of him. “Sneaky fiend!” he laughed. “I don’t think you deserve a gift after that little stunt.”

Breathless but proud of himself, Mastekh popped to his feet and tugged on Estenarven’s arm to pull him up. “Come on. The s-sooner you g-give it to m-me, the s-sooner this is over. You’ll be m-m-mine as much as I’m y-yours.”

“Excellent point.” Estenarven heaved himself up and almost knocked Mastekh flat by leaning on him. “Sorry, Puddle. Just prop me up a bit, thanks.” Between Mastekh and the wall, Estenarven made it back into the main room of the suite, where Elder Khennik was sitting beside the fire, flicking through a book of illuminated manuscripts.

He looked up as they staggered into his peaceful afternoon and raised an eyebrow. “Where are you two off to?”

“Nowhere special,” Estenarven panted, resting most of his weight on the back of a settee, much to Mastekh’s relief. “I don’t suppose you know what happened to the bag I brought back from the mountain with me?”

To Mastekh’s surprise, Khennik sat up, golden eyes aglow. “Finally that time, is it? I wondered when you’d remember. I put it in your room.”

Mastekh’s curiosity increased as Estenarven eyed their elder warily. “Untouched.”

Elder Blazeborn gave an offended sniff. “As I have mentioned to you before, Estenarven, I do have some control. Go, give your gift.” He waved them away and went back to his book.

However, Mastekh noticed that the elder didn’t turn a single page in all the time it took for Estenarven and him to lurch their laborious way from furniture piece to furniture piece and eventually the wall, so that they could reach the Boulderforce’s cramped little room.

“He better not have,” Estenarven grumbled, slumping onto the bed and looking around.

Mastekh waited impatiently in the doorway, trying not to hop from foot to foot. Considering how lacklustre he’d felt about his seventh gift before he gave it to Estenarven, he was suddenly excited all over again about their courtship. He might have already won the ultimate prize of Estenarven’s heart but, well, it was still nice to receive presents. Especially when they were a surprise.

“Ah.” Estenarven heaved a sigh of relief and beckoned him over. “Would you fetch me that bag from behind the door, please, Puddle?”

Curious and a little wary now, Mastekh stepped into the room and closed the door. Then he picked up the ragged bag that was almost as tattered as his own foraging sack. This one was more than a little scorched and, as he carried it over to Estenarven, smelt pungently of charcoal.

“Well, go on, open it,” Estenarven encouraged after Mastekh sat beside him and stared at the bag for a long moment.

This was it. The last gift. After this their courtship was over. After this anything could happen. Estenarven might even lose interest. The courtship wasn’t binding, after all. Their relationship could end in another month. There would be nothing left to keep things interesting between them. Why wouldn’t Estenarven lose interest then? Mastekh was not an interesting dragon.

“Puddle,” Estenarven murmured, running the tip of his nose from Mastekh’s shoulder, up behind his ear, filling him with the most delightful shivers. “Open the bag.” He followed his command with a nip.

Shying away, Mastekh bumped back against him playfully and sighed. “I don’t w-want this to b-be over.”

Estenarven rested his chin on Mastekh’s shoulder and smiled. “Silly Puddle,” he chuckled affectionately. “This isn’t the end, it’s just the beginning. Of everything. Now open the bag before I resort to tickling tactics of my own.”

Warm hands brushed against the spiral patch of scales low on Mastekh’s back and he twitched. Even with a layer of silk between them, it was still a highly sensitive spot – but only with Estenarven.

“All right, all r-r-right,” he yelped. “I’m o-opening it, I p-p-promise.”

Estenarven rumbled another chuckle and rested his palm flat against Mastekh’s back, stroking up and down in long, soothing strokes. “Nothing is more precious to me than you, Puddle, but let’s finish this properly. Happy seventh gift, love.” He kissed Mastekh’s cheek.

Feeling suddenly shy, he nuzzled his Boulderforce in return and finally opened the bag.


Sticks. Charred, broken, burned-up tree branches and flakes of sooty bark.

“Um. Th-th-thank you?”

Estenarven cracked up, laughing so hard he had to lie down on the bed, gasping in an attempt to get his breath back.

Scowling, Mastekh picked up the sturdiest looking branch and waved it at the highly amused dragon beside him. “I s-see nothing f-f-funny,” he growled, raising the stick warningly.

“Ack, no, don’t hit me with that. Please, Puddle. Don’t waste it.” Estenarven sat up, still chuckling as he seized Mastekh’s wrist and stole a kiss from his angry mouth. “It’s just – your face. Smell the stick, Puddle. Go on, try it.”

“Smell the st-st-stick?” he repeated incredulously. “Is that some w-w-weird Boulderforce g-game?”

Estenarven snorted and shook his head, picking up a piece of bark and inhaling deeply. “Go on,” he urged. “Try it.”

Regarding his lover suspiciously, anticipating a trick at any moment – along with a lungful of charred soot – Mastekh raised the branch towards his nose and sniffed delicately.

Charcoal, yes, but also a surprising sweetness.

“W-what is that?” he whispered, breathing in more deeply and gulping in another gasp, growing more and more enamoured of the scent each time. “It’s like ci-ci-cinnamon, only r-richer.”

“Storm cinnamon,” Estenarven said, looking smug.

“Storm cinnamon,” Mastekh echoed reverently. “Oh.” He looked down at the bounty spilling out of the bag on his lap. “Oh!” He leapt to his feet. “No w-w-wonder!”

“Puddle?” Estenarven lurched after him, but too late – Mastekh was already through the door and running across the suite. “Puddle, come back!”

“Oh.” Mastekh skidded to a halt and, right in front of Elder Blazeborn’s amused eyes, planted a smacking kiss on his lover’s mouth. “I’ll be b-back later. I h-have to go b-b-bake now.”

“I prefer mine in scones, if you please, Mastekh,” Elder Blazeborn called as Mastekh headed for the door again.

He made an agreeing noise and twirled on the spot, storm cinnamon clutched against his chest. As he wrestled with the door handle, too giddy and excited to manage such a simple task, Estenarven caught up and leant against the wall beside him.

“Here.” He twisted the handle. “Don’t be too late.”

“I w-won’t,” Mastekh promised, dancing from foot to foot but knowing it would be rude to simply dash away. Besides there was something he needed to say, something he’d not managed yet and that Estenarven deserved to hear. “I l-l-love you.”

Estenarven’s smile was tender as he reached out and drew Mastekh into a sweet kiss. “And I love you, Puddle. Go have fun.” He nudged Mastekh through the doorway with a wink. “We’ll be waiting.”

“Scones and r-rock cakes for t-t-two,” Mastekh promised, blowing a kiss over his shoulder and dashing down to the kitchens.

Even though their courtship was officially over and life still went on, didn’t mean he couldn’t still spoil his lover whenever he got the chance.

He had to keep Estenarven interested, after all, and if cakes and treats were the way to his Stoneheart, so be it.

~ X ~ X ~ X ~


X ~ X ~ X ~ X

Courtship 7Thank you for reading!Courtship 7

I think you already know that you can download the ebook now for free. But if you want more Mastekh and Esten (and Khennik, Goryal and Reglian and all the others) you can find them all in the Dragonlands series.

<3 <3 <3

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Storm Wings: Chapter 7, Part 3

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First time reading? Catch up with everything on the Wingborn page.
You can also visit the frequently updated Character List to help keep track of everyone.

Previous Chapter ~

In which awkward (but amusing) conversations ensue.


AFTER ONE OF the most awkward afternoons of her life, night couldn’t fall fast enough for Mhysra. She’d tried hiding in the eyries to avoid Corin’s all-too-knowing eyes, Dhori’s smirks and Jaymes’ blushes, but where before she’d always been able to tell Cumulo anything, this time she couldn’t. She hadn’t even been able to meet her Wingborn’s eye.

Maegla, could she be any more pathetic?

Instead she’d skipped the evening meal and hidden in her room, unable to bear Lyrai’s cool lieutenant voice. Or worse, have him be nice to her. She knew she would have to come out some time – probably as soon as the next morning if her grumbling stomach was any judge – but the longer she could put it off the better.

Voices in the corridor made her tense, listening to Riders going to bed, joking and whispering. Then she heard her friends: Dhori chuckling, Jaymes muttering, Corin laughing. The door opened and Mhysra huddled under her covers, pretending with all her might to be asleep.

The floor creaked as Corin moved about, lighting a lamp, dropping Skybreeze onto the bed, getting changed. To Mhysra’s relief she didn’t speak, just climbed under her covers and blew out the lamp.

Mhysra relaxed, whispering a thank you to Maegla for small mercies.

“I know you’re not asleep,” Corin murmured, crushing Mhysra’s hopes. “Want to talk?”

Knowing her friend would keep badgering if she didn’t acknowledge her, Mhysra rolled over and pulled the covers off her head, thankful they had the room to themselves. “No.”

“So…” There was a long pause. “You and Lyrai. Imagine that.”

Groaning, Mhysra buried her head under the pillow. “We are not talking about this.”

“No, of course not,” Corin agreed cheerfully, her dragonet chuckling. “I’m thinking aloud.”

Mhysra pulled the covers over her head again.

“Lyrai and Mhysra. In the forest. All alone. Looking awkward. I wonder what happened?”

“Corin,” Mhysra begged.

“Oh, sorry. I’ll think a little quieter.” Another pause. “So, Skybreeze,” Corin said in an exaggerated whisper. “Do you think they kissed? Or just nearly? See, I don’t think our good friend Mhysra here would have hidden all day over a nearly-kiss. So it must have been a good one. Lucky cow.”

“Lucky?” Mhysra grumbled, her voice muffled by the covers. “How is it lucky when I can’t look even at him? He’s my lieutenant!”

“And very handsome he is too,” her friend agreed. “You have excellent taste. Lucky mare.”

Growling in frustration, Mhysra pushed off the covers. “I am not. It’s a disaster.”

“Only if he never does it again,” Corin snickered. “That really would be terrible.”

“I can’t believe we’re having this conversation.”

“We’re not,” Corin assured her. “I’m thinking out loud and you’re talking in your sleep.”


“See, you’re not even making sense.”

Mhysra stared at the dark ceiling, reliving the kiss, unable to decide whether it had been the most amazing thing to have ever happened to her, or the worst. Well, in experiences that didn’t involve blood, bruises, breakages or her family anyway. Corin said nothing, and for a blissful moment Mhysra thought she’d fallen asleep.

“Was it good?” her friend asked, all trace of humour gone.

“It was perfect,” Mhysra sighed, too tired to lie. “Until everything turned awkward. Why does it always have to turn awkward?”

Her friend rolled over, making Skybreeze grumble. “I’m sorry.”

Swallowing hard around the knot of emotion tightening her throat, Mhysra huddled into her pillows. “I really like him, Corin.”

“I know.”

“I always have.”

“I know.”

She sniffled, feeling sorry for herself.

“Get some sleep,” Corin told her gently. “Things’ll seem better in the morning.”

Mhysra couldn’t see how, but she was very tired. “G’night, Corin.”

“Night,” her friend yawned, and peace filled the room.

On the very edge of sleep, Mhysra drifted away to a mutter of, “Lucky, lucky cow.”

* * *

Kaskad, Etheria

“YOU REALISE HE will probably make an official complaint.” Though Captain Hylan was all business this afternoon, he was also far more relaxed than when Stirla had met with him the previous day. In fact the big captain was lolling back in his chair, picking at a bowl of winter fruits, entirely at ease. “And if he doesn’t his friends certainly will. Not to mention the ruckus his father will kick up should he hear of this encounter. At the very least a permanent note will be made on your service record.”

Stirla thought about it for a moment, touched his puffy lip and shrugged. “It was worth it.”

Hylan grinned. “I’ll make a note of extreme provocation and we’ll see where that gets you.” He paused, leaning forward to grab a quill. “Promoted, probably.”

It was Stirla’s turn to grin, licking his lip when the split reopened. “At least he’s contained for the moment. Thanks to Princess Neryth, I’m not sure he’ll ever feel brave enough to venture out of that room. You’ll probably have to break down the door when you need to evict him.”

Hylan grunted with amusement, then narrowed his eyes at the scratches on Stirla’s face. “High strung, noble whelp. Fights like a girl, I see.”

Stirla shook his head. He’d fought alongside girls in the fall of Aquila. There was nothing weak or cowardly about the way they faced down kaz-naghkt. “He fights like a rabbit, sir. All scrabble, no class.” He’d seen his face in the mirror. While the scratches were sore, they weren’t too bad or too deep, and would heal right up, thanks to the healer’s balm.

“Small, pampered minds tend to panic under pressure,” Hylan agreed, tossing the quill aside and lounging back. “Probably best to send him home with his friends. If he’s as bad as you say, he’ll be happy for the escort and escape.”

Stirla wasn’t so sure about that, but he merely opened his hands, happily passing the responsibility onto someone else. Finally. It was outside his control now. Let someone else deal with the obsessively enthusiastic Lord Lorfyn and his ridiculous Havian Special Force.

“I’ll leave the princess with you, for now,” Hylan murmured between berries. “She seems to have settled in quite nicely and, with an eye to the future, better we offend Heryff by letting her stay than upset the future ruler of Havia. Even if she will be working from the shadows.”

Stirla could see the sense in that, but still grimaced. Though he’d reached an accord with Neryth, and was even growing to like her, she was still a princess. It was a big responsibility taking care of her, especially with a war looming. How much easier it would be to send all their Havians home in one basket. Then again, Stirla reflected, he couldn’t see any of them actually going, whatever Hylan thought to the contrary.

“I don’t think she’d take too kindly to being sent home,” he agreed. “Royalty don’t like being told what to do.”

Hylan nodded thoughtfully. “Speaking of royalty. Where is Lyrai? I paired you together because I expected him to keep you in check. Next thing I know you’ve absconded with the cream of Havian nobility and Lyrai’s vanished off the face of the Overworld. Care to explain?”

Not really, no. Stirla sighed and rubbed his forehead. “Last I know he was flying into the Storm Wash in pursuit of a couple of students. What happened after that, well, your guess is as good as mine, sir. As to why he did such a harebrained thing?” Stirla looked up with a wry smile. “He’s Lyrai.”

Hylan huffed, part amusement, part agreement. “So he is. I did warn Myran about that heroic tendency of his. Not to mention his three-mile-wide protective streak. I should have remembered both when I sent the pair of you off alone. Stupid.” The captain sighed and massaged the bridge of his nose. “Ah well, there’s not a lot I can do about it now. I only hope to Maegla he’s sitting the winter out safely along the Storm Wash somewhere. We might be able to afford to offend Havia, since it doesn’t do much for us anyway, but Imercian is quite a different matter.”

“Even if the Stratys couldn’t give two hoots about Lyrai?”

Hylan shook his head. “If there’s one thing royalty hates more than being told what to do, Stirla, it’s losing something that’s theirs. Whether the Stratys likes Lyrai or not, he is his son and second-in-line to the throne. If we lose him without a damn good explanation, we’d better expect to pay.” Lifting the last winter berry from the bowl, Hylan rolled it between his fingers before squashing it against the pale pottery. The juice oozed a deep, dark red. “For your sake and mine, let’s hope our errant friend turns up sooner rather than later.”

~ Next Chapter ~

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A Courtship of Dragons: Part 49

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A Courtship of Dragons is a M/M Romance short novel (approximately 60,000 words) told in short scenes, between two young dragons, Estenarven kin Boulderforce Clan Stoneheart and Mastekh kin Rainstorm Clan Flowflight. It’s pure fluff ‘n’ stuff and not intended to be anything other than that.

|| First Part || All Parts || Last Part ||

Estenarven, at last.

The Seventh Gift

AFTER WANDERING IN the endless darkness, numb and separated from his body and senses, Estenarven felt life in himself again. It burned at first, painful and sharp, zapping through each of his muscles, running through his bones until his teeth hummed with it and his head felt like shattering.

Then he breathed. A shallow gasp full of pins inside his chest, inside his lungs. Followed by the scent of water lilies and moss. It soothed him.

His skin prickled, burning, burning, burning. Until a cool touch drifted over it, tracking across his body and turning pain to pleasure.

His mouth was parched, but water came.

His ears were ringing, but whispers of affection broke through.

His eyes were last. Heavy eyelids, lightened by kisses. A gaze full of black spots and strained muscles, until a beloved face filled his vision.

“Mastekh,” he croaked in a voice of shattered rubble. “My Mastekh.”

A brief kiss, too brief, but full of life and love. “Esten,” a whisper in return.

Estenarven lifted an arm that felt as heavy as the boulders of his kin and cupped that precious face, more meaningful to him than any number of gifts. And he smiled.

Mastekh smiled back, eyes swimming with tears. One escaped, splashing against Estenarven’s cheek. It burned, but in a good way, scouring him clean.

“Sleep,” his beloved urged. “Rest. There’s no r-rush.”

Except… except… Estenarven fought against the undertow threatening to drag him back into the darkness again. “The gift,” he gasped. “I… Did you…? Do you have it?”

Mastekh stared at him, green eyes shining and stroked a cool hand over his face. “I h-have it,” he whispered, looking deep into Estenarven’s eyes. “The only g-gift I’ll ever n-need.”

Sighing, Estenarven sank back and closed his eyes, taking Mastekh’s hand in his and pressing it against his chest, against his heart. “And I have mine,” he murmured, and let the tide of sleep sweep him away.

Courtship 7~ Last Chapter ~Courtship 7

Or download the ebook – it’s free!

Whatever you choose to do, take care, my lovelies.

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Storm Wings: Chapter 7, Part 2

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First time reading? Catch up with everything on the Wingborn page.
You can also visit the frequently updated Character List to help keep track of everyone.

Previous Chapter ~

Meanwhile, in an infirmary on the other side of the Overworld…

Kaskad, Etheria

NOT EVEN A full day on Etheria and he was in the infirmary. Lorfyn touched his split lip and winced at the little dart of pain. In hindsight, perhaps talking to an eyrie of strange miryhls hadn’t been the brightest idea. But how was he to know the foolish birds were so touchy about their wretched Riders? Or that Lieutenant Stirla was such a ill-mannered beast?

“It was such a shock, Highness.” Propped up against his pillows, bruised and sore, Lorfyn took the opportunity to confide in Neryth. It was lovely that the princess had found time to visit him – so important and no doubt busy as she was – but had she needed to leave him alone all night? Lorfyn hadn’t seen anyone but healers after Captain Hylan dismissed him, and none of the idiots would hear a word said against their precious lieutenant. This base was all mad.

Still, his princess was here now, which meant it would all be sorted out soon. “I mean the man used his fists, Highness. His fists. Like the lowest common labourer. And he, a Rift Rider!”

“Would you have preferred he used his sword?” the princess asked sweetly. “You did insult his miryhl.”

“Insult?” Lorfyn echoed, dismayed that his actions had been so badly misconstrued. Enemy propaganda had reached his princess first. How he hated being isolated up here. “I would never do such a thing, Highness. Never! You know I revere miryhls as the miracle of creation they truly are.” Even if they were blindly loyal, brainless birds. “I would never insult one.”

Neryth inclined her head, a wry smile curling one corner of her mouth. Trust her to find inappropriate humour in the situation. She’d always been a little strange that way. “Perhaps not intentionally, my lord, but that is what you did. At the very least you were attempting to steal bonded birds from their rightful Riders.”

“Rightful!” Lorfyn protested loudly. “How can you say such a thing? Have you been inside those eyries, smelled the terrible stench? There was excrement on the floor and the perches, even on the walls. One bird scratched above me and dust, Highness, actual dust came from its feathers! How can such neglect be justified, and even rewarded, simply because they once joined the Riders? I mean who are these men anyway? They could be anyone? Commoners, even!” Perish the thought. Was the Overworld’s most precious resource to be wasted on complete nobodies while noble men like himself were left grounded because their king wouldn’t let go of an ancient and ridiculous grudge?

Princess Neryth sat back in her chair with a sigh. “How many eyries have you visited, Lorfyn?”

“Just this one, Highness. And it was more than enough. This place is a disgrace.”

“What about the eyrie in Misthome?” the princess asked, then shook her head. “No, of course not, the place is rarely used and they’d only been there for a few days. And the excitement likely covered everything else. Then there was Sherpoint, where of course they didn’t let you anywhere near the miryhls, and you were never invited to my eyries. Gods be praised.”

Since her murmuring didn’t make much sense, Lorfyn assumed the princess was talking to herself. Not that it mattered what other eyries were like. He had seen the state of this one and it was a travesty he would not permit to continue. “What shall we do, Highness?”

“We?” Neryth looked up, startled. It was the clearest emotion Lorfyn had ever seen on her face. “I suggest you stay here and rest.”

Disappointed that he would miss all the action, Lorfyn settled against his pillows with a pout. “You will keep all the miryhls for yourself.” He winced as his split lip pulled unpleasantly. “Ow.”

Neryth arched an eyebrow. “All the miryhls here are claimed, Lord Lorfyn. You would do well to remember that.”

“But they are being neglected!”

“Have you ever preened a miryhl?”

Lorfyn grimaced at the very idea. A Ketthik of Havia, performing such a menial task? Even on a miryhl? How insulting.

Neryth seemed to read the answer on his face. “Have you ever witnessed anyone else preen a miryhl? Or spent time close to any bird, any bird at all, in your life?”

It was Lorfyn’s turn to raise an eyebrow. Or at least attempt to. Unfortunately he’d never quite got the knack. He screwed up his forehead, waggled his eyebrows ineffectually for a moment, then settled for raising them both in a vague but lordly manner. “I have falconers for that sort of thing, Highness. Would you ever demean yourself so?”

“Of course,” Neryth replied with surprising swiftness. “There’s no better way to bond with your miryhl than to preen it yourself. The bond between a miryhl and its partner is of vital importance, even for those outside the Riders. I preen both of my miryhls daily.”

Lorfyn blinked in astonishment. “You?” he repeated, unbelieving. He’d always known that Neryth had some funny ideas, but when all was said and done she was a princess. Normally she had the good manners to act like one. “You preen your own miryhls. Yourself. With your own hands? Every day?”

The princess looked amused. “I did try using my feet once. It was surprisingly ineffective, and my miryhls didn’t like it.”

Lorfyn knew when he was being made fun of – and he didn’t like it either. Hunching a shoulder, he touched a hesitant finger to his aching nose. “You mock me, Highness,” he muttered reproachfully.

“You make it so easy,” Neryth said gently.

Lorfyn frowned, trying to work out what she meant by that. Was he being mocked again?

The princess stood up, breaking his thoughts. “You look tired, my lord. You must rest to recover your strength and heal from your wounds. I will advise your friends not to disturb you. We wouldn’t want you to suffer a setback. Bed rest and near silence the healer said. Yes. It will do you the world of good.”

Lorfyn blinked at the sudden solicitousness in Neryth’s tone. It was lovely for her to be so concerned, but… He opened his mouth to protest that he wasn’t feeling so bad and would quite enjoy some company, but Neryth cut him off.

“No, no, you must always do as the healer tells you. We wouldn’t anything terrible to happen to you.”

Lorfyn blinked again. What kind of terrible things? Could bruises grow infected? What about the wound on his lip? The eyries weren’t the only things in this place that could do with a good scrubbing. And what about his nose, had it been broken? Was it true, as someone once told him, that shards from a break could enter his brain and kill him when he least expected it? Drop him dead in the middle of dinner, face first in the soup. What about the bruises around his eyes, would they overflow in the night and send him blind?

He started breathing heavily, the prelude to panic, and wondered at the tenderness in his chest and ribs. Had he broken any? Stirla was so heavy and he’d hit him so hard. Had he punctured a lung?

Oh, Gods, he couldn’t breathe!

“I’ll leave you alone now,” Neryth murmured. So kind, so royally. The last face he would ever see…

Yes, he needed to be alone. He might die at any moment. Visitors might carry deadly germs in with them. He could end up feverish from the drafts they let in. They had only the best intentions, but he was so gravely injured, in such terrible danger of infection. His friends tried their best, but their personal hygiene was not always all it could be. What if he’d caught something from the dust off that miryhl? Didn’t birds carry all kinds of awful diseases, waiting to pounce on the unsuspecting? Rats on wings.

Scooting to the edge of the bed, he hung his head over the side and brushed furiously at his hair, wanting to get all the deadly germs out. He was dying, dying, dying.

“Gods preserve me,” he whispered, collapsing into his pillows. He was exhausted. Was this the end? The world was fading. Ah, if only he had been able to see his father one last time…

“Forgive me, father. Farewell.” He shut his eyes and was lost.


STANDING OUT THE infirmary, Neryth and Stirla pressed their ears to the door as the patient within flapped about, working himself into a fine state of unnecessary panic, then muttered his last final words.

“Touching,” Stirla muttered.

Neryth dabbed at her perfectly dry eyes and affected a sniff. “I thought so,” she agreed. “Such a terrible loss to the world.”

The terminally ill patient began snoring. Heavily.

The princess and the lieutenant traded grins and left the lord to his sleep.

~ Next Chapter ~

Thanks for reading :)

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A Courtship of Dragons: Part 48

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A Courtship of Dragons is a M/M Romance short novel (approximately 60,000 words) told in short scenes, between two young dragons, Estenarven kin Boulderforce Clan Stoneheart and Mastekh kin Rainstorm Clan Flowflight. It’s pure fluff ‘n’ stuff and not intended to be anything other than that.

|| First Part || All Parts || Last Part ||

Khennik muses.

Goryal’s Gift

KHENNIK RUBBED HIS eyes and sighed. It had been three days since Reglian had burst into his suite, babbling tales of lightning, seventh gifts and Goryal’s interference, but all Khennik had really cared about was what the Thunderwing had been holding. Estenarven, bleeding, smoking and soot-stained. Estenarven was naturally dark-skinned, his grey Boulderforce scales transferring into a deep brown in his human form, but this was a shade darker than anything he’d ever been before.

Ignoring Reglian’s babbling, Khennik had remembered to ask about Mastekh and learnt that Goryal was taking care of him. Then he’d shifted into recovery mode and arranged a bed for the Boulderforce in the main space of his suite, summoned dracos for salves and herb water and done his best to tend to his aide.

Kin Boulderforce were tough dragons. It was something he’d had to remind himself often as he wiped away the soot and soothed on the salves, watching as day by day the wounds became scars and the scars began to fade. But despite the encouraging signs of healing, Estenarven wouldn’t wake.

Desperate and worried, Khennik had finally remembered that he was treating a Stoneheart and had stripped away all the soft bedding, rolled up the carpets and cleared a space until he could lay Estenarven directly on the stone floor. Which had invoked a deep sigh and rapidly speeded up the last of his aide’s healing.

But he didn’t wake up.

Now it was deep into the third morning of Khennik’s watch and he was utterly out of ideas.

Which, of course, was the moment that Goryal decided to appear.

The Starshine had been flitting in and out over the last few days, bringing favourable reports of Mastekh’s recovery somewhere watery and cool – and utterly unsuitable for Blazeborns, which was why Khennik had been forced to stay away – replenishing the supplies of salves and herbs and bringing along soothing incenses for Khennik to burn. All of which had been well received but ultimately useless.

“He won’t wake,” Khennik said, as Goryal came to stand beside his chair, the pair of them staring at where Estenarven slept.

“Still no fever?” the Starshine asked, kneeling down and feeling the Boulderforce’s forehead for themself.


“Good. He’s recovering swiftly, all things considered.”

Khennik clenched his jaw, trying not to consider all those things and just what role this dragon had played in it. After all, it was a well known fact that Goryal Starshine was a first class meddler. But it was also well known that the seventh gift of any dragon courtship had to involve something that was hard to get. Considering the two dragons involved in this particular courtship, Khennik knew it was inevitable that disaster had struck. The only positive in this situation was that at least Goryal had been on hand to rescue them afterwards.

Sort of.

“How is Mastekh?”

“Improving.” Goryal smiled, their chiming voice light with happiness. “I expect him to wake any time now.”

“And Estenarven. When will he wake?”

“Soon,” Goryal promised, passing a hand over Estenarven’s face. “When the time is right.”

Khennik arched an eyebrow, too tired to have any patience with such ambiguous answers.

They simply smiled at him again. “Trust me, Khennik.”

“As these two trusted you?”

Goryal winced. “Ah, well, perhaps not in quite the same way.”

Khennik sighed. Goryal would always be Goryal, a Starshine through and through. “Never mind.” He wasn’t likely to ever get an apology, because it was unlikely that Goryal would ever admit to doing anything wrong. They’d tried to help Khennik’s aides and, if the bag he and Reglian had unwound from Estenarven’s arm on his return could be trusted, they had succeeded. Which would be all Goryal cared about.

Storm cinnamon. By the Family, just the thought of it made Khennik’s mouth water, even at a terrible time like this. He couldn’t imagine what reason Mastekh had also had for visiting such a dangerous place, but had little doubt that it would prove worthy of a seventh gift.

If either of them ever woke.

“Goodness, look at the sun. I must check on Mastekh again before lunch. Don’t lose heart, Khennik, your aides are strong. They will pull through.” Patting him on the shoulder, Goryal scurried towards the door, just as the handle rattled.

“Ah, perfect timing,” they chimed happily, drawing Khennik’s attention as a ragged, bedraggled and exceedingly soggy Mastekh tumbled inside on his hands and knees.

“Looks good to me,” the Starshine announced, stepping lightly over the panting dragon and dancing out into the corridor. “I’m off for lunch. Shall I have the dracos send something up for you, Khennik?”

Growling, Khennik strode across the suite and slammed the door in Goryal’s face, then he scooped Mastekh up and carried him to where Estenarven lay so silent and still.

“Es-Es-” Mastekh panted, sounding half-delirious.

“Hush,” Khennik soothed, lowering to his knees and placing Mastekh ever so gently alongside the Boulderforce. “He’s here. All is well.”

“Esten,” Mastekh sighed, rolling until he was pressed along his lover’s side, head tucked into the crook of his neck.

And Estenarven stirred. For the first time in three days, the Boulderforce moved of his own volition, head turning towards his Rainstorm. His arm shifted, hand rising to his chest to cover where Mastekh’s hand already pressed atop his heart.

Khennik watched them for a long, silent moment. His aides slept on, curled towards each other, wounded but healing. Together.

“All is well.” He nodded once and turned away, going in search of his first meal for three days.

Courtship 7~ Next Chapter ~Courtship 7

If you’re ready to reach the end, you can download the ebook now – it’s free!

Whatever you choose to do, take care, my lovelies.

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Storm Wings: Chapter 7, Part 1

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First time reading? Catch up with everything on the Wingborn page.
You can also visit the frequently updated Character List to help keep track of everyone.

Previous Chapter ~

Well, it finally happened. I do hope it isn’t going to be awkward…



HEAT RUSHED THROUGH her. A simple brush of Lyrai’s lips and she was on fire. She almost flinched from the unexpected sensation, but then his breath stroked her cheek and she melted.

This was such a bad idea, but Gods, she wished all mistakes felt this good.

She breathed in the scent of him: clear air, male skin, the mint of Lansbrig tea. Then, as he coaxed her mouth open with a lick and a drag of his thumb, she could taste him too.

Her mind stopped.


WHAT WAS HE doing? Even as a distant voice in the back of his mind screamed about students, wellborn ladies and stupid, stupid, stupidity, Lyrai relaxed into the kiss. It had been too long since he’d held someone this way, too long since he shared the breath of someone else. The intimacy of two tongues touching sent a bolt of heat through him.

He had to get closer.

Sliding his hands from her face, he spread his fingers through her hair, revelling in the soft curls that felt like miryhl feathers. Holding her head with one hand, he slid the other down her back, turning her to face him even as he drew her against his chest. His fingertips stroked every bump of her spine and she shivered.

He smiled, enjoying her response, especially when she put tentative hands on his shoulders.

She was nervous. Endearing. Sweet. She tasted of skies and storms. Home.

Her hands tightened on his shoulders, then moved towards his neck. Her thumb found his pounding pulse and stroked, sending a shudder of heat through him. She cupped his jaw, her calloused fingers rasped pleasurably against his stubble, making them both tremble.

Then she pushed him away – and his senses were left reeling.

What just happened?


HEART POUNDING, BREATH short, Mhysra scrambled to her feet and stumbled away, one hand on her chest, the other against her lips. Had she just -?

Surely not.

Had Lieutenant Lyrai just – ?

“Maegla,” she groaned, resting her forehead against a tree, unable to think about what had happened, and even more unable to look at him. What did she do now?


“MHYSRA?” THE CALL from the forest, not nearly far enough away, explained to Lyrai why they were now on opposite sides of the brook. Mhysra stood facing a tree, her back to him, fists resting against the bark, her forehead –

Was she banging her head against the trunk?

“Don’t.” Hopping to his feet, surprised he could walk after the last few memorable moments, Lyrai reached out to stop her from hurting herself.

A lightning bolt couldn’t have made her jump as much. Staggering sideways, she tripped on the undergrowth and landed with an inelegant oof.

Wonderful. As if Lyrai didn’t already feel like an ass. Now she was too embarrassed to even open her eyes, let alone look at him. She was so young; it was probably her first kiss. What had he been thinking? She was his student.

“Gods,” he muttered, turning away to scrub his hands through his hair, hoping to revive what few wits were still rattling around inside his head.

“There you are!” Corin emerged from the trees, Dhori and Jaymes in tow, draped in dragonets. “Where have you -?” She stopped, eyes widening as she took in the distance between them, the awkwardness, the fact that Mhysra was lying on the floor and Lyrai clearly hadn’t offered to help her up.

Her lips rounded in a silent O.

Great. His reputation as an ass was complete.



Mhysra reluctantly opened her eyes to find Dhori in front of her, smiling sympathetically. Behind him a wide-eyed Corin was staring at Lyrai, trembling with the need to ask any number of astonished questions, but for once not quite daring. Next to her Jaymes was paying extra attention to Emberbright, his cheeks a livid, embarrassed red.

Gods, kill her now and have done. This was officially the most awkward moment of her life.

Since death was not forthcoming, she smiled ruefully and accepted Dhori’s hand. “My hero.”

“Liar,” he muttered. “You’d rather we were all a thousand miles away. Would you like us to leave?”

She looked at Lyrai just as he was glancing at her. Their eyes met and heat washed through her, more intense than any memory. They both looked away.

Dhori chuckled and squeezed her shoulder. “Come on, Corin. Looks like she didn’t get lost after all.”

“No!” Mhysra lunged for him. Everyone stared at her, probably thinking she’d lost her mind. Aware she might have overreacted a tiny bit, she cleared her throat. “Er… not lost. I just… clumsy – you know – idiot – lieutenant found me and… anyway,” she mumbled miserably, unable to look at anyone, aware she was making a complete fool of herself and wishing the ground would swallow her up.

“We should head back.” Lyrai was using his lieutenant voice, the one she hadn’t heard since the Nimbys selection school days. Cold, distant, horrible. “It’ll be dinner time soon.”

Jaymes and Corin made relieved sounds of agreement and couldn’t leave fast enough. Lyrai hesitated before heading after them, shaking his head. Leaving Mhysra alone with Dhori.

“Maegla,” she groaned, resting her head against his shoulder.

“Poor Wingborn,” he soothed, putting an arm around her. “These growing pains smart, don’t they?”

She gave a reluctant laugh, thinking he was almost as good a friend as Derrain sometimes. “Just you wait.”

He chuckled and kissed her head. “I wouldn’t give you the satisfaction. Best save your breath to kiss your prince.”


“Don’t tell me it was all a misunderstanding,” he teased. “Because that was not what it looked like. I haven’t seen that much tension between two people since Stirla and your sister said goodbye in Nimbys.” She elbowed him, but he didn’t even have the grace to feign an injury. “Come on, Wingborn, let’s get you back before the lieutenant returns in a fit of misplaced jealousy. I’m too pretty to punch.”

She hid her burning face against his side. “I hate you.”

He patted her shoulder. “Of course you do.”

~ Next Chapter ~

Thanks for reading!

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