Free Fiction, Overworld, Writing

Facing the Hurricane: Part 2


This is a free short story featuring characters from the Wingborn series.
For more stories and info about the novels, please head here.

Taking place between Chapter 12 and 13 of Wingborn, this is a brief glimpse into eyrie life – and how Cumulo and Hurricane felt on first encountering each other.

Part One was Cumulo’s take on things, now it’s Hurricane’s turn to meet the Wingborn.

BREEZE STRUTTED THROUGH the eyries, confident without arrogance. She didn’t need to preen and fuss or puff herself up to show everyone how important she was. All she had to do was walk and the rest moved aside.

Hurricane tilted his head and watched her move. There was nothing exceptional about her feathers or form, but an invisible mantle surrounded her anyway. Maegla, he wanted to be Breeze when he grew up.

Skipping a few paces to catch up, he followed Breeze down the main aisle to a back corner, aware of the whispers rustling in his wake. He kept his head high, though, and tried not to listen too closely to the words. What few he couldn’t help but overhear sounded curious and complimentary rather than cruel, but he shook them off anyway. A swollen head would be just as damaging as a crushed spirit in the long run.

“Here.” Breeze paused before an impressive looking group, containing two of the largest and shiniest miryhls Hurricane had ever seen.

One was a female who was even bigger than himself. She was pure bronze, with black-edged wings and deep brown eyes that assed him carefully before she shuffled her enormous wings against her back.

“Lyrai’s bonded?” she rumbled, her voice deep and soothing.

Swallowing hard, Hurricane nodded, suddenly feeling his youth and inexperience compared to these birds. The other miryhls he’d met so far had been as young and foolish as himself, but these were Rift Riders, real Riders, with years of partnership beneath their wings. Hurricane had never even carried a human on his back before, only dummies filled with sand.

“I’m Atyrn, Lieutenant Stirla’s bonded.” She leant forward and tapped her golden beak against his. “Welcome to Nimbys. We’ll be seeing rather a lot of each other.”

Hurricane crackled his beak and felt the tiny feathers below his eyes rise with embarrassment. Beak taps were nothing, just a casual mark of affection and friendship. But Atyrn was a lieutenants bonded. She’d beak tapped him! He scratched at the floor with his talons and muttered something incomprehensible, suddenly shy in the big female’s presence. She’d been with her lieutenant for years already and now he was her equal.


Breeze huffed softly and Atyrn gave a low chuckle.

“And this is Cumulo,” his fellow lieutenant miryhl said, drawing Hurricane’s attention back up from the floor. “He’s even younger than you but, as you can see, just as overgrown.”

Hurricane stared at the glossy brown miryhl, whose feathers perfectly matched the ripe conkers of autumn, and tilted his head. Though just a fraction smaller than himself, this Cumulo was broader in the chest and much more muscular in the wings. Gold shimmered across those same wings as he shuffled them beneath Hurricane’s assessing gaze.

How could this miryhl be younger than himself? Hurricane wasn’t yet twenty years old and had learnt from others on the Thorncrest that he was considered rather young for a male headed to the Choice.

Cumulo straightened up, raising his head as high as it could go, bringing them eye to eye. “I am Wingborn,” he announced defiantly.

Hurricane blinked. Wingborn? He’d heard the stories and rumours and deemed them nonsense. Such a thing could never exist, and even if it did, it couldn’t be anything like as amazing as the legends made them sound.

He studied Cumulo again, seeing how fit and shiny the young male was, and how he already fit alongside the other miryhls, making Hurricane feel weak and skinny by comparison.

He stared his fellow youngster in the eye, reading an uncertainty there that matched his own. A Wingborn was surely as much of a curiosity as a marble miryhl, and likely just as big a target for jealousy as a freshly matched lieutenant’s bonded. They were both new to this life, both strangers in an eyrie full of old acquaintances.

Hurricane relaxed. “Well met, Cumulo,” he greeted, wondering if he dared beak tap his newest friend.

Cumulo bristled a little, drawing back at the slightest forward movement on Hurricane’s part.

Ah, no beak tap then. Maybe later.

Finding himself the focus of both Breeze and Atyrn – not to mention many others in the eyrie – Cumulo huffed. “Well met, Hurricane,” he growled begrudgingly, his golden eyes glowering resentfully at the newest member of the eyries.

Not two days ago, Hurricane would have backed away from such potential hostility, taking himself off to find friends elsewhere. Not this time. He was a lieutenant’s bonded now, he belonged in this eyrie.

Besides, despite their short acquaintance, it was obvious that Cumulo was young and prideful: Hurricane’s arrival had tweaked his tail out of alignment. It would be up to him to reassure the younger male that he was still special and important. It would be a lieutenantly thing to do.

Under the amused gazes of Breeze and Atyrn, Hurricane sidled his way through the group of smaller birds until he was beside Cumulo. Settling down close – but not too close – to the other miryhl, he tilted his head towards him and said, “I’ve never met a Wingborn before.”

Cumulo eyed him suspiciously. “Of course not. We’ve never met before.”

Breeze turned away with an unconvincing sneeze, while Atyrn suddenly developed a fascination for her talons.

Hurricane kept his own laugh inside his chest, letting it warm him as he shifted a little closer to his new friend. “Tell me, is it every bit as good as the stories?” he asked, allowing a bit of his natural scepticism into his tone to temper the sense of awe.

Cumulo narrowed his eyes. “It’s better,” he said shortly. “Flying with Mhysra is everything to me. As I’m sure you’ll find out once you finally carry Lyrai on your back.”

A prickle of possessiveness rippled down Hurricane’s spine at the casual use of his bonded’s name. Of course every miryhl in this eyrie knew his Lyrai better than he did. He would still be the only one to fly with him, though.

Watching him carefully, Cumulo crackled his beak smugly, having evidently noticed the effect his words had had. “Sixteen years we’ve been together, my Mhysra and I. Our partnership is perfect.”

Hurricane sighed wistfully, unable to imagine spending so long with any one human. Lyrai already felt like his and they’d barely met. “I can’t wait.”

Cumulo studied him carefully for a long moment. Then he slowly, cautiously, spread his wing enough to nudge against Hurricane’s. “So…” he began gruffly. “Lyrai, eh? How did that happen? The Choice isn’t until tomorrow. Wanted to stand out and be different, did you?”

It was Hurricane’s turn to feel smug, though he knew better than to let it show. He’d make a friend out of this eagle yet. “With a Wingborn in this eyrie? I haven’t a chance.”

Which was evidently the perfect thing to say as Cumulo’s back straightened once more, his golden eyes glinting with pride. “True,” he acknowledged, a faint chuckle in his tone. “But you make an impressive second. I can just imagine what you and Lyrai will look like at sunrise. Him all golden, you all… whatever you are.”

For the first time since leaving home, Hurricane chuckled at a comment upon his looks. Was it possible that Cumulo was a little jealous of his marble feathers? Well, Hurricane was more than a little jealous of Cumulo’s long partnership with his Wingborn and his prior knowledge of Lyrai, so they were even. “I think I’m going to like it here,” he announced.

Cumulo scoffed with amusement. “Wait until you meet the students first,” he advised. “You may wish to change your mind.”

“Never,” Hurricane said, feeling the truth of it down to his bones. This was where he was meant to be, with these miryhls, with these Riders. Here was home.

Atyrn leant forward and beak tapped him again. “Good.”

Hurricane ruffled his feathers with pleasure, even as Cumulo huffed beside him.

Atyrn beak tapped him too. “Behave, Cue,” she ordered.

He sniffed and tilted his head pointedly away from both her and Hurricane, towards where the rest of the group of miryhls had been watching them with amusement. “Where was I?” he announced loudly.

A small, black male ruffled his feathers and piped up eagerly, “Somewhere up a mountainside facing off against a raging wild bullwing bull, who was about to charge you down and eviscerate you and your Wingborn.”

Hurricane jerked his head back and caught Atyrn’s eye. “But -” he began, until Atyrn’s wink silenced him. Maybe things were different in the north and they had wild bullwings here. In South Imercian, though, they were far too valuable to be allowed to escape – and they’d never charge down a miryhl without having been challenged first.

Ignoring any hint of an interruption, Cumulo puffed up his chest importantly. “Thank you, Kerron, I remember now. So there we were, my Wingborn and I, facing down certain death…”

As the young miryhl settled into his grandiose tale of bravery and danger, Hurricane nestled beside him and let his mind drift. It had been rather a long day, almost as exciting as Cumulo’s tale was turning out to be.

Amused, Hurricane fluffed up his feathers, humming with contentment as Atyrn roosted beside him. Two lieutenant miryhls together in the Rift Rider eyrie, right where Hurricane belonged. It certainly wasn’t where he’d expected to end his day when he’d woken up that morning, but he wasn’t about to complain.

Especially not when Cumulo finally finished his tail and huddled alongside him. A Wingborn on one side, a lieutenant miryhl on the other: Hurricane had definitely gone up in the world.

“Welcome to Nimbys,” Cumulo muttered, now that most of the eyrie was asleep and few would hear him.

Hurricane heard, though, and sleepily reached over to tap his beak against the younger miryhl’s. “Good to meet you too, friend.”

Huffing, Cumulo hunched down and rumbled a low growl in his chest. “I barely know you, stranger,” he grumbled.

Hurricane just chuckled and pressed his wing against the Wingborn. He might not have won Cumulo over completely just yet, but they’d get there. Friendship was inevitable. Hurricane would make certain of it.


PERCHED AT THE top of the eyries, Breeze looked down over her sleeping flight and nodded with satisfaction. Lyrai was mounted again and young Cumulo had a real challenger in Hurricane. Their friendship and rivalry would settle them both down, helping them to find their rightful places in the Riders.

All was good.

Closing her eyes, Breeze settled down to sleep, confident that all had gone well for another day. She couldn’t wait to tell her Myran all about it in the morning.

Thanks for reading!

Free Fiction, Overworld, Writing

Facing the Hurricane: Part 1


This is a free short story featuring characters from the Wingborn series.
For more stories and info about the novels, please head here.

Taking place between Chapter 12 and 13 of Wingborn, this is a brief glimpse into eyrie life – and how Cumulo and Hurricane felt on first encountering each other.

Of course, Cumulo takes it all in his calm, laid-back style… ha! Only joking, of course he doesn’t!

28th Fledgling 786 CE

CUMULO WAS RIGHT in the middle of one of his favourite anecdotes about how he’d once faced down and chased off a wild bullwing bull – though it’s possibly that it wasn’t entirely wild, and the face-off might have arisen because Cumulo had spooked the herd, but details, details – when he first noticed the silence.

Not that silence was necessarily a bad thing. Cumulo loved to wow an audience with his stories, and since his arrival in Nimbys he’d managed this feat on more than one occasion. Which was no small thing, considering his audience consisted of real Rift Rider miryhls, of which he was the youngest by a fair margin. Then again, he was Wingborn, so of course he was a natural leader and superior in every possible way. He was also born at Wrentheria, which made him adventurous and competent in all measures.

But it wasn’t just the silence. No, far worse than an eyrie of silent miryhls, Cumulo had lost their attention.

Allowing his voice to trail off mid-sentence, he craned his head around towards the door to see what all the others were staring at.

Two miryhls. The one on the left was familiar: plain brown and of a middling size for a female. Though she wasn’t entirely impressive to look at, Breeze commanded respect, partly through her age and experience, but mostly because she was Captain Myran’s bonded partner. Even Cumulo had to respect a Rider pair that had been in existence longer than he and Mhysra had been alive and who had a reputation for being completely solid, unflappable and honourable, even through injury.

Only it wasn’t Breeze who’d caught everyone’s attention – it the miryhl who stood beside her.

It was hard to make out much about the stranger, since the light was shining behind them, but Cumulo squinted at the glare cast off the new miryhl’s feathers and already felt himself bristling. The bird was bigger than him and strangely pale.

“Everyone!” Breeze raised her voice just enough to be heard in every corner of the eyrie. “Meet Hurricane.”

The new bird stepped forward and Cumulo wasn’t the only one to gasp.

A marble miryhl. Such a rare and strange thing. Cream and brown and black, mottled and patterned in a way that should never have been so beautiful.

Cumulo’s crest feathers rose, trembling ever so slightly. This eyrie already had a Wingborn – it didn’t need a marble miryhl as well. Too many marvels spoilt the awe.

Seemingly oblivious to the shock her companion’s appearance had caused, Breeze tilted her head towards Hurricane and gave an approving nod. “Lieutenant Lyrai’s new bonded.”

Cumulo’s wings sagged in stunned disbelief and a startled murmur shivered around the eyries.

Crackling her beak with amusement, Breeze looked around at the fuss until her dark-gold eyes finally settled on Cumulo. “I trust you will all make him feel welcome.”

Not in this lifetime. Hustling his wings back into place, Cumulo straightened up and raised his head before anyone noticed his loss of composure.

He was Wingborn, big for his age and with plenty of growing still left to do: he would always be the most impressive eagle in the eyrie. Even one with marble miryhls and officers’ birds in residence.

Not even Lieutenant Lyrai’s new bonded would change that. Cumulo wouldn’t let him.


“A LITTLE DIFFERENT to what you’re used to, I expect?”

Hurricane stared around at the eyrie with wide eyes and barely managed to nod at Breeze’s amused question. He wasn’t sure what he’d expected while travelling in the hull of the Thorncrest on the way to Nimbys, but it hadn’t been this. All his life, growing up on a small, secluded farm at the far end of South Imercian, Hurricane had been told about Nimbys and the Choice. Raised alongside his clutch mates, he’d learnt from a very early age that his destiny was to become a Rift Rider one day. To be chosen from the flock on the Day of Choice, partnered with one particular human and spend his life defending the Overworld against the scourge of the kaz-naghkt.

Well, he’d already messed that up by refusing to enter the rickety structure that the humans had laughingly called an eyrie. Hurricane wasn’t stupid. He had no wish to die in the middle of the night because a mild wind had blown through the valley and knocked the whole thing down on his head. Not that it really mattered. He already knew he was different, strange and doing everything wrong.

Travelling north on a small, drafty skyship before being transferred onto the Thorncrest, Hurricane had quickly learnt that he was odd-looking, different, strange and not necessarily in a good way. Humans pointed at him and muttered words behind their hands that they didn’t think he could hear. Other young miryhls shuffled away from him, uncertain whether he was sick and contagious or just strange.

Having always been the biggest of his brood, Hurricane had been praised and admired all his life. Back home his strange pale feathers had gone unnoticed in a flock of similar-looking birds. Perhaps his markings had been a little bolder than his fellow fledglings, his pale patches a little brighter, but back home that had been a good thing and it had been the brown miryhls that were strange and different and worth staring at.

Not here. Here he was the strangest of the strange, being stared at by an eyrie full of glossy brown, bronze and black birds, and he was the untidy stranger. Again.

It had taken time to win over the friendship and confidence of his fellow young miryhls on board the Thorncrest. They’d eventually found common ground in their nerves over what was to come and their homesickness. He’d made friends with the small and weak ones, those overlooked by others for being different or less than perfect. It was the first time in his life that Hurricane had been deemed less, but he’d adapted quickly enough. His size had made him an object of jealousy amongst some, his mottled feathers a subject of ridicule to others, but he’d risen above it, confident that his good qualities would still shine through when the Choice came.

Then he’d arrived in Nimbys.

He’d never seen a city before, had never imagined so many houses or people could exist all clustered together in such a way. Flying above the streets with the rest of the miryhls, he’d been overwhelmed to be part of such a large flock. Everything was too noisy, the air tasted different, the smaller birds had crowded against him and he’d struggled to find a space to land on the field below.

Where the temporary eyrie was waiting.

The other birds had been so excited and nervous that they’d allowed themselves to be herded straight into the death trap.

Hurricane had refused.

Rift Riders had converged to coax him. Already nervy and overwhelmed, there had been too many people trying to get close to him. He’d panicked and lashed out – so they’d tried to move him by force.

That hadn’t gone well. Nothing about this journey north had gone well.

Which was how he’d ended up half-bound, flat on the floor, snarling and slashing like a wild beast. All his training, all his dreams, everything that he’d ever learnt and known had flown straight out the hatch. All Hurricane had known was panic and fear.

Until he came.


He had gentle hands and a soft voice. He’d been patient and calm. He’d treated Hurricane as an equal, not an animal. He’d set Hurricane free.

It wasn’t how the Choice was supposed to go, but it worked for them. Hurricane could feel it deep down, the sense of rightness settling inside. Lyrai was his.

And he was lieutenant, which really was the gilding on the primary.

Reminded that he’d been chosen already and was now an officer’s miryhl, Hurricane raised his head.

Let them think him funny looking, let them look down their golden beaks at him: it didn’t matter. He was Lieutenant Lyrai’s bonded and he was here to stay.

Breeze chuckled beside him. She was an older eagle and had kind eyes. She didn’t look at him as if he was some odd curiosity. Then again, as a captain’s miryhl, she’d probably seen far worse and stranger things than him in her long life.

“Come,” she urged in her low, quiet voice. “There are some miryhls I wish you to meet.”

I only split this in two because it’s a bit much to read all at once.
But if you do want to read it all at once, then…

Here’s Part Two!

Thanks for reading!

Books, Free Fiction, Overworld, Serial, Writing

Wingborn: Chapter 23, Part 1


(First time reading? Catch up Here!)

~ Previous Chapter ~

Two more chapters to go!

And after the way things ended last Sunday… I’m just going to shut up and let you get on.

Although if you need a refresh, the last line was about grabbing hold of Cumulo’s tail and lunging –

Twenty Three

 STRAIGHT INTO HURRICANE, who caught the kaz-naghkt full in the face with his talons.

“Go!” Lieutenant Lyrai shouted, while the kaz-naghkt screamed.

Freed, Cumulo needed no further urging. There was time for one snatched breath before he folded his wings and entered the darkness beneath the bridge. Mhysra huddled against him, wondering if her heart would ever recover. The shadow seemed to go on and on as they dropped closer to the water, their momentum lost after the kaz-naghkt had grabbed them.

Sunlight blinded her on the other side and air surged beneath Cumulo’s wings again as he banked upwards, swinging back towards the citadel. He flapped hard to lift them over the eyries, now swarming with miryhls and kaz-naghkt. A familiar eagle appeared through the chaos, its wings tipped with silver.

Keeping an eye out for attack, Cumulo glided closer and, when Latinym was directly overhead, Dhori dropped a bow and quiver into Mhysra’s hands.

“Luck!” he called, Latinym already racing back to the fight.

“I think we’ve already had more than our fair share today,” Mhysra muttered, securing the quiver to her saddle before testing the balance of the pre-strung bow. It was perfect. She frowned and wondered how Dhori had managed to bring hers to her. Where had he gotten it?

“The gods can spare us a little more,” Cumulo shouted. “Wake up!”

Blinking, she looked up and found they had company. Three kaz-naghkt screeched down the wind, outpacing the miryhls on their tails. If they got too close, a kaz-naghkt would twist and lash out with its tail. Spotting Cumulo, they grinned and stooped to attack.

Mhysra drew an arrow from her quiver with shaking hands. “Steady,” she called, and Cumulo levelled his wings calmly, as if they faced murderous kaz-naghkt every day.

“Maegla aid me,” she whispered, aimed at the kaz-naghkt on the left and released.

The wind snatched at the arrow, driving it away from the pale chest she’d aimed for and striking the thick muscle beneath the kaz-naghkt’s right wing instead.

Shrieking, the creature curled around the wound, swinging its broad left wing across. The kaz-naghkt next to it lashed out as a leather sail clouted it in the face. Black blood sprayed and the wounded creature fell, injured in both wings. While it could have easily recovered from an arrow wound, there was little it could do with its other wing in tatters.

The kaz-naghkt that had done the damage shook its head, too dizzy from the slap to spot a miryhl dropping on it from above.

As they battled, the final kaz-naghkt continued onwards, flexing its claws. Wings spread, holding steady, Cumulo waited for Mhysra to nock another arrow. Her hands were shaking and it was all she could do to draw. She released too early and cursed when the arrow went harmlessly wide.

“Hold on!” Cumulo warned, and she gripped her bow in one hand and grabbed the saddle with the other as her miryhl dropped.

The kaz-naghkt screamed with glee and swooped after them, wings tucked in tight. It screamed again when Cumulo rolled over, grabbing its torso and face with his thick talons. Claws scrabbled, trying to reach the miryhl’s belly, but Cumulo thrust his legs out, completed his roll and dropped his prey. The body tumbled and struck an outcrop; a black smear on grey granite.

While Mhysra watched it fall, Cumulo took them back to the fight, far more prepared than she for what they faced. “Stay with me,” he called, sensing her distraction.

Her voice failed when she tried to speak, so she licked her lips and took a deep breath. “Always,” she croaked, checking her quiver with shaking hands to make sure none of her arrows had been lost in their tumble. She checked her safety straps were still nice and tight, selected an arrow and shrugged her bow into her hand, ready for whatever came next.

* * * * *

LYRAI PAUSED TO wipe the sweat from his face as Hurricane circled above the battle. His right arm ached. It had been too long since he’d last fought, but this was what he’d trained for, had gotten so good at and been denied when he was grounded. Now he had Hurricane and was a true Rift Rider again – but it had never been like this with Froth.

Hurricane tensed and Lyrai leant against his back, holding his sword close and ready. They needed no words to know what the other would do next or where each wanted to go. This miryhl had been born for him, Lyrai could feel it in every tilt of Hurricane’s wings as he darted between scraps and fell talons-first on the tangle of kaz-naghkt gathered around Stirla.

While his miryhl battled, Lyrai brandished his sword, catching the first kaz-naghkt by surprise as he swept off its tail. Unbalanced, it struggled to turn and was impaled on Stirla’s sword.

Lyrai swung again and again, defending them on all sides while his miryhl fought. Most of the kaz-naghkt fled, seeking easier prey, while the less fortunate were already in Atyrn or Hurricane’s talons.

Another creature banked overhead and dropped towards Lyrai, claws outstretched. Bracing himself, Lyrai raised his sword and swung, slicing through one arm and catching the kaz-naghkt’s other shoulder. Hurricane stuttered at the impact before Lyrai diverted the kaz-naghkt’s weight downwards. It snarled, battered but by no means dead.

Licking its bloodstained lips, it smiled as fresh skin, bone and muscle writhed and crawled out of the severed stump. Knowing what was to come and what he had to do, Lyrai adjusted his grip on his sword and hauled.

Still attached to the lieutenant through its shoulder, the creature keened. Lyrai pulled again, bringing the writhing creature within reach. It sank its claws into his leg and opened its mouth to bite, but the angle of the sword restricted its head and it couldn’t quite reach.

Jerking his knee up, Lyrai shoved the kaz-naghkt off the blade and exposed its chest. Then he struck. His sword cleaved through the exposed flesh with ease, stopping only when it reached the scaled skin on the other side. The whole weapon juddered as the kaz-naghkt’s heart pulsed. Twisting his wrist, Lyrai braced his foot on the creature’s shoulder and pulled his sword free. The kaz-naghkt screamed and dropped into the river.

One less enemy to worry about.

“Are you wounded?” Stirla shouted as Atyrn circled counter to Hurricane.

Lyrai pressed on the puncture wounds in his thigh and cursed, forced to sheath his sword as he shrugged out of one side of his flying jacket. Using his belt knife, he cut through his shirtsleeve and dragged the material off, before pulling his jacket on again. Slicing the sleeve into strips, he bound his thigh, wadding material over the worst of the wound and tying the binding as tight as he could. It wasn’t perfect, but he wasn’t going to retire from the field now. Not when they were still needed.

“Lyrai?” Stirla called.

“Fine!” he shouted, patting Hurricane’s neck when his miryhl glared at him.

Satisfied, Stirla raced back into the fray, aiming for an oversized kaz-naghkt who was causing a bunch of Riders a mountain of problems. Knowing he had the situation well in hand, as Atyrn hit the creature from behind, Lyrai urged Hurricane up high.

They weren’t alone up there – Captain Myran circled the battle, shouting orders and guiding Riders into place. Several archers also surveyed the fight, picking off targets. Hurricane was heading towards the captain when something else caught Lyrai’s eye.

“Maegla blast her,” he cursed, tugging Hurricane in the opposite direction. The miryhl shot him an aggravated look, before spotting what his Rider had seen. He growled and leant into the pull on his reins.

“My thoughts exactly,” Lyrai replied, scowling at Cumulo and the untrained girl upon his back. “This is no time for glory hunting!”

Cumulo continued his focused glide without glancing at them. Mhysra, however, looked over and calmly raised her bow. Then, as steadily as if she were on the practise field, she loosed.

It happened so fast that Lyrai barely ducked the arrow speeding towards him. Only when something screeched did he look behind. A kaz-naghkt clawed at its eye, barely a spear length from Hurricane’s tail.


A dark blur darted under the wounded kaz-naghkt, the Rider on its back ripping open the creature’s chest with a neat sweep of his sword.

The miryhl ducked out of the way of the falling body and Dhori grinned at Mhysra. “Great!” he called. “Aim for the chests. Only a heart blow will kill them.” Then he was gone.

Stunned, Lyrai turned back to Mhysra – she had her hands over her face.

“Gods, gods, gods,” she squeaked. “I almost killed my lieutenant. Gods!”

And he’d thought she looked calm. It was so absurd, Lyrai laughed. “You can use me for target practise anytime,” he called, as Hurricane swept past and dived back into the fray.

~ Next Chapter ~

All comments welcome – and if you spot a typo, please let me know.
Thanks for reading!

Books, Free Fiction, Overworld, Serial, Writing

Wingborn: Chapter 22, Part 1


(First time reading? Catch up Here!)

~ Previous Chapter ~

Three chapters to go!

Cheer up, Mouse. Your friends are with you. (Although, if I wasn’t able to fly my miryhl, I’d be pretty grumpy too.)

Twenty Two

24th Winter Rains

“I don’t think this is a good idea,” Mhysra warned, watching Mouse lurch to the windowsill.

“If I want to walk again, I have to walk,” Mouse panted, waving away Derrain’s help. White lines were etched at the corners of his mouth, but no one mentioned them.

After almost a month in the infirmary, fighting off infections as well as the damage of the puncture wounds, Mouse had spent the last two moons hobbling around on crutches. The healers still worked with him when the rest of the first-years did their physical training. Thanks to them, Mouse would eventually be able to walk without a stick, but only if he was sensible. And patient. Since this was Mouse, Mhysra didn’t hold out much hope. Especially as he’d decided to forego his crutches entirely this morning.

“Ready to try?” Derrain asked, pushing the others aside.

Mouse stared at the empty floor between himself and Derrain, head bobbing as he calculated the distance: about twelve feet. “Yes. It’ll be easy.”

Hugging his crutches, Corin snorted, but held her peace. The fall had changed Mouse. He was quieter now, more self-contained and grim, and far more determined. His friends had learned to support him in silence, since he didn’t listen to objections. Nor did he want pity or advice. He was going to walk without a limp and that was final.

“All right.” Taking a deep breath, Mouse moved, his friends wincing with each step. After eight feet, he hissed and wobbled. “Blast it,” he growled, grabbing Dhori’s arm. “I hate this.”

“Eight feet is better than none,” Mhysra said soothingly. “And you walked. It’s a start.”

He looked at her. She shut up.

“A limp isn’t so bad. Look at Captain Myran,” Greig pointed out, as one or other of them had done daily since the accident.

“Myran was already a captain when he gained his limp,” Mouse growled. “I’m not even allowed on a miryhl. If things stay this way I’d have been better off breaking my neck.”

An uneasy silence fell and Mhysra hunched her shoulders, her guilt over Mouse’s injuries growing with every bitter day that he struggled to walk again.

“Cheer up,” Derrain ordered, squeezing Mhysra’s arm sympathetically. “It’s your first go without crutches. Don’t give up yet. Even miryhls have to learn to fly.”

“Is da poor ickle cwipple feeling sowwy for himself?” a mocking voice cooed.

Bovei and three of Willym’s favourite students lounged in the corridor behind them. Eyeing Mouse’s bent leg and the crutches Corin held, Bovei smirked. “Poor baby.”

“Got something to say, lordling?” Greig demanded, squaring up the them. Though he might have lacked his uncle’s intimidating height, Derrain didn’t, and the pair of them blocked Mouse from unfriendly eyes.

Bovei looked Greig up and down and raised his eyebrows at Derrain. “Farm boys. So uncouth.” He sniffed exaggeratedly. “Can you smell something? Has someone been sleeping with the pigs again?” His friends tittered.

Mhysra put her elbow on Derrain’s shoulder and leant casually against him. “I didn’t know you shared a dormitory with Fredkhen’s boys, Derry.”

The tips of Bovei’s ears went red, but he rallied. “And who’s been sleeping in yours?” he sneered. “Everyone knows why girls really want to join the Riders. What’s the matter, wouldn’t anyone take you in Nimbys?”

Derrain tensed, but Mhysra laughed, pleased to have deflected Bovei’s poison.

Greig smiled. “Funny you should show such an interest since it’s your bed I’ve been hearing about. But then, one must always strive to please one’s lieutenant. In whatever way he desires.”

One of the boys choked, while Bovei balled his fists. “What are you implying, farm boy?”

“I think you know, lordling,” Greig sneered.

Derrain unfolded his arms slowly, smiling as Bovei watched his big fists flex and bunch. “I think the whole citadel knows.”

If looks could kill…

Going for the final push, Mhysra raised her eyebrows. “Got a problem with that, lordling?”

Too angry for words, but not brave enough to take on Derrain, Bovei spat at their feet and marched off, taking his friends with him.

“He’s not very happy with us,” Corin said sadly.

Greig shrugged. “Willym’ll kiss it better.” The friends grinned.

Except for Mouse. “I can look after myself,” he growled. “I don’t need you protecting me.”

Despite his antagonism, Greig chuckled. “But it was fun. Taking out the rubbish was my main chore back home. I’m good at it.”

“As a cabin boy I chased rats off the ship,” Derrain said, stretching his arms over his head. “It’s good to stay in practise.”

“I don’t need your help,” Mouse snapped.

“Who said we did it for you?” Greig retorted, taking the crutches from Corin and shoving them at him. “Maybe we got fed up of him poisoning our air.”

“I could have dealt with him,” Mouse insisted stubbornly.

Derrain shook his head. “It isn’t fair to keep all the fun for yourself. We deserve some too.”

Clenching his jaw, Mouse manoeuvred his crutches into place. “If it makes you happy.”

Grabbing hold of Corin, Greig waltzed her down the hallway. “Nothing makes me happier than meeting Lord Twit and his twittering lordlings. It adds something to my day.”

“Arsenic?” Mhysra enquired, and Mouse actually cracked a smile. There was hope yet.

Somewhere high overhead a bell began to ring, causing Corin to stop. She yelped as Greig tripped over her and they collided with the wall, collapsing in a graceless heap.

It was Starday, so the bell meant only one thing: time to fly.

Corin and Greig hastily untangled themselves and raced off, but Mhysra waited, while Dhori and Derrain exchanged glances over the glum Mouse’s head. Derrain raised his eyebrows, but Dhori shook his head, jerking it to the right. Derrain shrugged.

“Come on, Mouse,” Dhori said. “I’ll walk with you to the healers.”

Mouse narrowed his eyes. “I don’t need a nursemaid.”

Derrain grinned. “We know you don’t, but maybe Dhori does. He took an embarrassing knock yesterday. It hurts to sit down.”

Mhysra bit her lip as the unflappable Dhori scowled, only to blank his expression when Mouse looked at him. “Really?”

“A little tender,” he mumbled. “Care to keep me company while I see the healers?”

“I can do that,” Mouse agreed with a hint of his old bounce.

Derrain winked at Mhysra. “See, it’s not always about you, Mouse.”

Leaning into his crutches, Mouse raised a hand to make a rude gesture.

Shaking his head, Derrain sighed. “I am so unappreciated.”

“Aye,” Mhysra agreed, patting his arm “You’re a regular martyr to your miracles.”

“I know,” he murmured modestly. “But still I try.”

* * * * *

THE EYRIES BUSTLED with students as Mhysra scooped up her harness, before weaving between the miryhls. Cumulo’s eyes were bright and he dipped his head at her approach.

“Feeling impatient?” she asked, buckling the straps of his bridle.

“I thought the snow would never end,” he grumbled, shivering at the weight of the saddle. “I’ve forgotten how to fly.”

“Hardly,” she snorted, tightening the girths. “You’ve been out every day, just not with me.”

“I’ve forgotten how to fly with you then. I’ll try not to drop you.”


“Hurry up.” He nudged her. “I want to beat the rush.”

Excited at the chance to fly again, Mhysra double checked all the buckles and straps, worried she might have missed something in her haste. “All right?” she asked, making Cumulo look again when he snapped that it was fine. Finally satisfied, she stepped onto his lowered wing and swung astride.

“At last,” he growled, leaping before she had a chance to tuck her legs up or gather the reins.

“Cue!” she complained.

“If you fall off now, you’re being stupid,” he retorted, teetering on the edge of the hatch. “Sort yourself out.”

“Yes, my lord. Sorry, my lord. Will that do, my lord?” she grumbled, tucking her feet into place and lying along his back. “I love you, Cue, even when you’re impatient.”

“You say that now,” he chuckled, and dropped over the edge.

“Maegla,” Mhysra whispered, tightening her grip.

They’d left the eyries on the waterfall side of the bridge countless times before, but this was the first time Cumulo hadn’t bothered to open his wings. Instead he used them to clamp her legs to his sides. The falls roared as they dropped parallel, flashing past the town in heartbeats. Then all was stone, water, clouds and the ferocious rush of the wind.

Cumulo fell, the air rippling over his feathers and nipping at his clenched wings. Water beaded his belly and Mhysra’s face, before being snatched away. A wiser person, Mhysra suspected, would have been terrified as the Cloud Sea drew closer, darkened by the shadows of rocks below. Energy and excitement fizzed through her as she delighted in the icy rush of the wind and the stomach-clenching fear of freefall. She laughed. She was flying with Cumulo. Nothing was better than this.

Cold seized her legs as Cumulo relaxed his wings, spreading them wide to sweep out of the dive and over the turbulent sea. A pale shape dropped past and Cumulo flapped upwards in surprise, talons raised to deal with the threat. The other miryhl opened its wings and shot beneath them, shrieking a challenge.

“Damn mimicking magpie,” Cumulo snarled, racing in pursuit.

Hurricane and Lyrai looked over their shoulders and sped up. The lieutenant was laughing.

Cumulo screamed and flapped harder, rising above Hurricane to where the air was smoother. Mhysra was surprised – and delighted – to see how her miryhl had improved. He’d had another growth spurt over the winter and was now the slightly larger of the two.

Hurricane glanced up, banked left, then right, searching for an updraft to rise on. Cumulo growled, ducked into the turbulence and found a surge of his own. They shot skywards.

Lyrai looked down, grinning as he urged his miryhl on. Hurricane responded, flapping harder. Cumulo stretched out his neck and strained to match.

Rising over the Cloud Sea, he aimed for a tree-covered spur, pulling away from Hurricane as their paths diverged. Mhysra wondered what the others were about, but trusted her Wingborn to counter. At the last moment Hurricane banked and cut back towards them.

Too late – Cumulo was ahead.

Mhysra whooped, laughing as they reached the trees and she felt the immediate change in temperature. Thermals. Warmer air rippled over them as Cumulo’s wings levelled out and he soared, spiralling higher with hardly a change of pace. The rush made her light-headed. Hurricane swooped underneath them then up, settling into a counter spiral.

Exhilarated, Cumulo called to his rival in smug miryhl-speak. Much as Mhysra adored her Wingborn, humility had never been his strongpoint. On this occasion, though, she just laughed.

Hurricane screamed back and Lyrai grinned, raising his arm to indicate that they were returning to Aquila. Mhysra waved her agreement, then relaxed against Cumulo, watching the other pair speed away.

“Still love me?” Cumulo asked when they were alone.

Smiling, she buried her face in his feathers and relished the cold, airy scent of him, tinged with a hint of sweet dust. “More than ever.”

~ Next Chapter ~

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Wingborn: Chapter 21, Part 1


(First time reading? Catch up Here!)

~ Previous Chapter ~

Four more chapters to go!

And yet another three parter this week – but I think it’s the last one. Poor Mouse.

Four more weeks to go!

Twenty One

31st Gale

It was sleeting. Again. “The joys of Aquila,” Stirla grumbled, tipping his hat further over his face. “How can you bear this every day?”

Blinking water from his eyelashes, Lyrai chuckled; supervising an afternoon flight was the least of his worries. “I like flying.”

“So do I.” Stirla shuddered as ice trickled down his neck. “When it’s sunny.”

Lyrai shook his head. After spending so much time grounded, he’d tackle a blizzard if it was his only chance to fly. “Come on.” He slapped Stirla’s shoulder. “Time to get your feet wet.”

“They’re already wet,” Stirla muttered, trudging over to Atyrn.

“Stop complaining. Once the blizzards truly start you’ll be spending plenty of time inside.” Lyrai secured his hat and shuddered. He was not looking forward to the next few months.

His friend grunted and hauled himself into Atyrn’s saddle, Lyrai mounted Hurricane and they launched into the miryhl-filled skies. It was Sunday, which meant all the first-years flew together, regardless of their flurries, and all Lyrai had to do was watch. Thankfully he was assisted by three lieutenants and four sergeants. It wasn’t unheard of for the captains to join these practise flights, but Lyrai didn’t blame them for keeping out of the sleet.

Circling above the students was like staring into the eye of a storm as the miryhls lapped the field. The more confident flyers rose to the top or darted through the middle, while the nervous stayed close to the ground. The four young lieutenants watched from above, while the sergeants kept order amongst the flock. After a while the sleet lessened, easing visibility, so that the pairs resolved into individuals.

Shaking the water from his eyes, Lyrai shivered and studied his students. Dhori and Latinym were rising from bottom to top and down again, while Mhysra and Cumulo swirled in and out of the main flow behind them. This exercise was too tame for them, but everyone had to practise together. Derrain and Zephyr, Corin and Wisp, Haelle and Thunder, and Mouse and Onyx bobbed behind Cumulo and Latinym like bows on a kite tail, making Lyrai smile.

An ill-advised attempt to race between some cocky students drew his attention and he was on the verge of intervening when Hurricane tensed.

“Mouse,” was all the warning he got before his miryhl dived.

Gripping handfuls of feathers, Lyrai squinted through the rain and swore. Mouse indeed. Eager to copy his friends, the foolish boy had urged his miryhl too high, too fast and collided with another student: Bovei fra Benlei. A favourite of Willym’s, Bovei did not make allowances for accidents.

Even as Hurricane arrowed down, Bovei raised his flying crop – and how he had one of those when they were banned, Lyrai could only guess – and lashed out. As Bovei was a mean-tempered bully, Lyrai expected him to aim for Mouse. Instead he slashed at Onyx’s face.

No!” Lyrai and Hurricane roared together, and Lyrai urged his miryhl even faster, diving straight through the flock of novice pairs. Miryhls scattered and students yelped, but Hurricane ignored them. Since no one fell off, Lyrai did likewise.

Onyx squealed and dodged the whip heading for his eye, taking the brunt of the strike on his wing. Already unbalanced from the collision, Mouse slipped, hands grasping at the wet saddle but finding no purchase. The leather straps, which should have been holding him in place, were unbuckled: he’d been copying his friends again. Onyx shifted to catch him, but Bovei cracked the whip across the miryhl’s neck. Bruised and wounded, Onyx flinched.

Mhysra!” Mouse plummeted through the cloud of miryhls.

Cumulo dived after him. With more strength than finesse, the Wingborn seized the boy’s leg and flapped frantically to slow their reckless descent.

With Mouse safe, Hurricane didn’t bother to check his own speed. Balling his talons, he punched straight into Bovei. The whip went flying. Lyrai barely had time to shift his weight as his miryhl wheeled about and dropped onto the smaller eagle’s back.

Being bigger, heavier and angrier, Hurricane easily drove Shield down. Lyrai didn’t object, even with a student trapped between – Bovei deserved it for striking a miryhl – and watched with relief as Cumulo carefully lowered his burden before landing.

Mhysra reached Mouse first, turning him over to check his leg, exclaiming at the blood. Stirla carried the boy from the field at a sprint, leaving Hlen to take care of poor Onyx.

“Return to the eyries and tend to your mounts!” Captain Myran ordered, emerging from the sleet with Fredkhen and a squad of Riders. Left with no other choice, the students dispersed.

At last, Hurricane brought Shield down and lifted off him. Before the miryhl could launch again, Hurricane rose to his full height and hissed. Though cocky around the eagles in Bovei’s class, Shield knew when he was outmatched and hunkered down, emitting supplicating peeps.

Not so his Rider. Mussed and gasping, Bovei pushed himself upright and glared at Lyrai. “What is the meaning of this?” he demanded shakily. “Don’t you know who I am?”

Before Lyrai could answer or dismount, Willym landed. “How dare you treat a student of mine this way!”

“I could say the same of your student with regards to mine!” Lyrai snapped, while Hurricane faced down Mercata, Willym’s miryhl. They were of a size, but Mercata was a slender, light-eyed female. Like her Rider she had a nasty reputation. “How dare he raise a whip to a miryhl. How dare he fly with a crop at all!”

Willym sneered from his mount’s back. “I saw no such incident. All I saw was a lieutenant attacking a student.”

“There are witnesses,” Lyrai growled, even as Hurricane did the same at Mercata.

The female miryhl hissed and her Rider smirked. “Yes. An entire year saw you attack a student, Lyrai. How distressing.”

“They also saw your student strike mine with a whip,” Lyrai retorted, barely controlling his temper. “You know crops are banned, but I can guess where he got such a thing.”

Willym looked at his student and smiled. “I see no whip.”

Lyrai saw red. “I will find it, you vicious bastard, and when I do, your precious whelp will -”

“I believe this is the item in question,” Captain Myran interrupted, limping between their miryhls with the crop held high. “It may also interest you to know that I saw everything.”

Willym stared at the whip and registered the contempt on Myran’s face. He glanced at Fredkhen, lingering unhappily to one side. Though Fredkhen’s family’s livelihood relied heavily on the favour of Willym’s father, the captain would not lie. Baring his teeth in frustration, Willym turned to the boy.

Bovei sat slumped sulkily in his saddle, picking at the reins. He glanced at his lieutenant and flinched. “My father -” he bleated.

“I believe Kern Whittendowns will be most disappointed about this,” Myran said, and the boy cowered. “You will come with me, Student Bovei. Lieutenants return to the eyries. Lyrai, attend Dean Marshall’s office when you are done.”

When nobody moved, the captain raised his eyebrows. “You are dismissed, Riders. Bovei, with me.” He limped away, leaving Lyrai and Willym glaring at each other.

Fredkhen cleared his throat. “Come, Willym. We must tend the miryhls.”

As Mercata turned her head away, Hurricane snorted and launched with no signal from Lyrai. Neither of them wanted to spend a moment longer in that company.

~ Next Chapter ~

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Wingborn: Chapter 19, Part 2


(First time reading? Catch up Here!)

~ Previous Chapter ~

Let the lessons begin!

“GOOD MORNING, STUDENTS,” Lyrai called as he strode onto the flying field for his first lesson early the next day.

“Morning, sir,” the students chorused raggedly from miryhl-back.

“I said good morning, students!”

“Good morning, sir!”

“Better.” He smiled, looking at his nineteen students. They were a pleasant mix from across the Overworld, and he recognised about half. “Some of you already know me from Nimbys and the journey here, but for the rest, I am Lieutenant Lyrai and this is Sergeant Honra. We will be teaching you how to fly.” There was a ripple of whispers and he clapped his hands for silence, startling one student into falling off.

“On your miryhl, Mouse,” Honra called.

The boy blushed and remounted, much to the amusement of the others. While he settled, Lyrai studied the faces before him, their expressions ranging from smug to anxious. He hoped to cure both before the morning was over.

“As you may have realised, some of your lessons will be taken with all of Captain Myran’s students, others won’t. You’re all learning the same things, but it occasionally pays to lessen the odds of students to teacher.” A few people chuckled. “As you get older your lessons will mix with Riders and students from other years. Since you’ll be expected to fight together under the same captain, we expect you to train together too. It should teach you to respect those outside your peer group and perhaps help others less fortunate.

“All of Aquila’s students are Riders-in-training and we expect you to behave accordingly. Treat others as you wish to be treated and you can’t go wrong. After three years your time will come.” He paused to let his words sink in. After a long moment, he smiled. “That’s the serious stuff done. Let’s move on.”

With Honra’s help, he arranged the lines so that he could see everyone. “Introductions.” He pointed to the boy on the end. “Name?”

“Fhyrin fra Fhenlyn, sir.”

“And your miryhl?”

Fhyrin looked surprised. “This is Twister, sir.”

“A pleasure to meet you, Twister,” Lyrai said to the miryhl, who nodded back. “Where are you from, Fhyrin?”

“Seffal Falls in Kevian, sir, and I’ve been flying since I was five.” Fhyrin sat up straighter and puffed out his chest. “My father and two brothers are Riders.”

Lyrai raised an eyebrow at the boy’s cocky smirk. This was one he’d have to keep an eye on. For now, however, he dismissed Fhyrin with a brief nod and moved on, coaxing introductions from the rest, including those he already knew, until he came to the last. “Name?”

“Greig fra Jeign, sir.”

He studied the lad closely. His dark skin and brown curls identified him as Etherian, but there was something about the firm jaw and mischievous brown eyes that looked even more familiar. “Where are you from, Greig?”

“Cyrris Peaks, sir.”

Lyrai smiled, certain now. “You’re Lieutenant Stirla’s nephew.”

Greig nodded warily. “I’m his oldest sister’s son, sir. I’ve only met him a handful of times.”

“Lucky you.” Lyrai winked, pleased when the lad grinned, looking even more like his uncle.

“And your miryhl?”

“Jupi, sir.”

“Pleased to meet you, Jupi. I hope you’ll both enjoy your time with us.” With the introductions over, Lyrai paced back along the lines. “I hope you all will. Now, to work.” Putting his fingers to his lips, he let out a sharp whistle. High amongst the mountain crags, Hurricane screamed.

The students looked up in awe as the miryhl swooped, racing his rippling shadow across the grass. Circling around the field, Hurricane made sure everyone had a chance to see how huge and magnificent he was before he landed. Wings closed, he raised his head, marble feathers gleaming in the sunlight.

“This is Hurricane,” Lyrai introduced mildly.

Even Fhyrin looked lost for words as the students gazed at the impressive eagle, even those who’d seen him before. The miryhls all straightened, trying to look more impressive, except for a muttering Cumulo who raked his talons across the grass and huffed sulkily.

Lyrai chuckled and, using Hurricane’s lowered wing as a step, settled easily into his saddle. “Today I want you all to fly this course. It’s just a few small obstacles designed to test your skills, balance and flight craft. It’s not hard. I’ll go first. Watch carefully.”

They glided down the field to the obstacle course. As Lyrai had said, none of it was difficult. Hurricane dipped through the large hoops, swooped over and under the bars, and wove between the poles without Lyrai having to do anything. He just called out the directions – to the students as much as his miryhl.

As they swirled around the last pole, Lyrai plucked a flag from the barrel. Returning to the start, Hurricane landed gently, allowing Lyrai to plant his flag before the admiring – and faintly panicked – row of first-years.

“Well, Fhyrin? Are you going to gawp all day or will you fly?”

The boy looked at the course, back to Lyrai, then at the course again. While Fhyrin might have lost his cockiness, the shier students now gazed at Hurricane with wonder, no doubt dreaming of a day when they could emulate him. Lyrai had always known his new miryhl’s worth far outweighed his size and magnificence.

Fhyrin took off and Lyrai followed, calling, “Honra, you’re in charge.”

Gliding after the young pair, Hurricane murmured, “So this is teaching?”

“I hope so,” Lyrai replied, having only the vaguest idea of the role himself, and shouted for Fhyrin to start. The miryhl responded before the boy. Fhyrin’s nerves showed as he clung too tightly, hunching away from the poles and wobbling. Lyrai wasn’t sure whether to be appalled by the boy’s overconfidence or impressed that he managed to stay on at all. He foresaw hard work ahead.

Hurricane circled lazily above the course. “That’s a good miryhl.”

“Yes,” Lyrai agreed with a sigh, hoping he could train the boy to match as Fhyrin landed, flag in hand. “How come you miryhls do all the hard work, yet still make us look good?”

“That’s our job,” Hurricane chuckled, ruffling his feathers on landing. “You show off with weapons and strut about in shiny boots while we work. You get the glory, we the graft.”

“What do you get out of it?” he asked.

“Undying loyalty,” Hurricane replied tranquilly. “And a laugh when we throw you off.”

Lyrai chuckled and rubbed his bonded’s neck. “I knew there was a reason I had to be nice to you.” Smiling, he turned back to his students and the task of teaching.

* * * * *

DERRAIN SIGHED AS he watched Mhysra and Cumulo sail through the obstacle course, looking more impressive than even Lieutenant Lyrai and Hurricane had. “It’s not fair.”

“Life rarely is,” Dhori said, perched cross-legged on his saddle. It looked neither natural nor comfortable, but his friend was serene. Easy for him, Derrain thought with another sigh: Dhori had already proved he could fly almost as well as Mhysra. It was as though he and Latinym had been bonded for years, rather than a mere half-moon. It was quite disheartening.

“Practise,” Corin suggested. “We just need practise.”

“Fifteen years or so,” Mouse grumbled as Cumulo swirled around the flying field, making the flag in Mhysra’s hand unfurl with a snap. “I’ll never be that good.”

“Few of us will,” agreed Haelle, who had inched her way through the course already. Her black female, Thunder, was the most impressive in their year, but her pale eyes and watchful air made Derrain nervous. “As long as I can stay on in reasonable comfort, I’ll be happy.”

“I’m aiming a little higher than that,” Corin said, watching Cumulo land. “But I’m not a fool.”

“You’re next, Corin,” Honra called, and she smiled weakly at her friends.

“Start counting,” Mhysra chuckled, when Cumulo strutted back into line.

“Why?” Haelle asked.

“I bet Wisp finishes the course faster than anyone. Before or after.”

“Including you?” Mouse was convinced no pair could rival her and Cumulo.

“Definitely,” Mhysra and Derrain said together, grinning.

Mhysra ruffled her miryhl’s feathers. “Cue was too busy showing off to go fast.”

“Hurricane started it,” Derrain pointed out, making Cumulo chuckle.

“Don’t encourage him.”

“Hey, look!” Mouse pointed at where Wisp was already landing. “I barely saw them move.”

“Wisp of the wind,” Dhori murmured. “There won’t be many who can catch them.”

“Good for her.” Derrain flinched when Honra called his name. “Wish me luck.”

“Luck!” his friends chorused as he eased Zephyr forward.

“I won’t drop you,” the miryhl murmured soothingly, taking off. “You can trust me.”

“I know,” he replied. “It’s me I don’t trust.”

Chuckling, she circled, waiting for Derrain to give the signal. Lieutenant Lyrai waved them on and Derrain leant forward. “Go,” he whispered, and she angled into the wind.

Derrain’s heart hammered as cold air struck his face and they dropped to barely three feet from the ground, then lifted up. The moment of weightlessness made his stomach clench, as Zephyr tucked her wings in tight, then flapped again. They were through the first hoop. Another lift, pause, then catch and the second was done. The third took them higher, the fourth low again, but by then Derrain was used to the sensation of his stomach trying to fly free.

After that he relaxed, as they hopped over and ducked under the horizontal bars and wove between the poles. Zephyr took it gently, her flight so smooth that Derrain’s body easily followed wherever hers led. As he reached for the flag, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to sit up. Chuckling, Zephyr took a victory lap before landing and giving him a chance to plant their flag.

“Good,” Lieutenant Lyrai praised, and a warm glow gathered in Derrain’s chest.

He waited for Zephyr to hop back into line before he leant forward to ruffle her luxurious feathers. “Maegla blessed me the day She sent you into my life.”

Turning shy, Zephyr ducked her head and nudged his boot. “I like you too.”

“Not bad for a beginner.” Corin grinned, still excited after her own flight.

Derrain rolled his eyes and smiled. For the first time he felt he might manage this. It wouldn’t be easy, but flying wasn’t impossible either. Not with a miryhl like Zephyr.

“You’ll do,” Mhysra assured him softly. “We all will.”

“Maegla witness that,” Dhori agreed, just as Mouse tumbled off at the poles. “Of course, She may have to help some of us more than others, but She’ll do her best.”

“And it’s up to us to do the rest.” Mhysra winced as Mouse fell off again.

“Nothing like a miracle to start off our training,” Derrain said, leading the cheers as Onyx landed, a flag waving triumphantly in Mouse’s fist.

“Anything’s possible,” Dhori said. “Even miracles. We’ve got three years, after all.”

“Cheer us up, why don’t you?” Mouse burbled, bouncing in his saddle as Onyx rejoined them, the boy clearly ecstatic to have only fallen off twice. Some miracles might take more work than others, Derrain thought, but they’d be worth it in the end.

~ Next Chapter ~

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Thanks for reading!

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Wingborn: Chapter 14, Part 1


(First time reading? Catch up Here!)

~ Previous Chapter ~

Oh, look, Mhysra’s being all mature and meeting her problems head on.

Ha, kidding! Of course she isn’t. Then again, what you rather do: talk to the Kilpapans or go flying? Exactly. It’s test flight time!


 31st Fledgling

Drifting above the mountainside, Lyrai revelled in the freedom of flying at sunrise. The city below still lay in shadow, but the sky was warming quickly. Hurricane glided upwards in lazy circles, tilting his wings in tiny ways to alter their direction and height. After only two days together, Lyrai felt as though he had never been without him. Hurricane was perfect.

“What happens now?” the miryhl asked, passing into the shadow of the mountain.

“Test flights,” Lyrai replied. “And those who haven’t chosen will take another look.”

“Why? What will they see now that they missed yesterday?”

“Nothing,” Lyrai admitted, as they drifted back into the light. “Except they’ll have more room to move today and more experts on hand to help.”

“Such fuss,” Hurricane chuckled. “You humans like making things complicated.”

Resting against the miryhl’s back, Lyrai smiled. “We feel more important that way.”

As the sun climbed over the Cloud Sea, the roofs of Nimbys glinted and Hurricane swooped over the stirring city. It was such a joy to fly again, Lyrai could patrol the same routes every day for a month and not grow bored.

“Company,” Hurricane called, drifting back towards the flying field, where nervous students waited with their families.

One miryhl was already out, swirling upwards and drawing envious stares. Lyrai smiled as Hurricane glided closer, attracting attention of his own. The two miryhls were close in size, but where Hurricane was all marbled shades, the other was brown with a golden sheen.

“Good morning,” Lyrai called as Hurricane began a counter spiral.

“Morning, sir,” Mhysra replied, lying against Cumulo’s back.

Studying the Wingborn pair, Lyrai practised the role he would soon take up at Aquila. He’d never seen such a powerful bond between a Rider and miryhl. No matter what Cumulo did – flap, glide, swoop – she was ready. Lyrai felt a twinge of envy as they wheeled off over the ridge, diving into the shadow. He’d never flown so well.

“Young and foolish, but impressive,” Hurricane murmured. “Wingborn usually are. He needs a strong Rider to keep him sensible. It’s a good match.”

“It ought to be after fifteen years,” Lyrai remarked dryly, watching the pair reappear.

Hurricane chuckled. “In fifteen more years, it will be perfect. As will ours.”

Unable to think that far ahead, Lyrai looked at the busy field below. “We should go back. It isn’t fair to keep all the fun for ourselves.”

Hurricane swooped around in a wide arc without argument. “I am eager to learn what a lieutenant does.” Then he tipped into a sharp dive that left no one in any doubt that they were watching an experienced Rider and miryhl in action.

* * * * *

“SHOW OFF,” CUMULO grumbled, as the marble miryhl skimmed across the field. There was a smattering of applause when Lieutenant Lyrai jumped down. His new mount preened at the attention. “He’s nothing special.”

Smiling, Mhysra rubbed her miryhl’s neck to soothe his ruffled pride. He’d not been happy to find that the big miryhl had beaten him outside, and was even less impressed to find him bonded to the lieutenant. Only the fact that Cumulo was Wingborn – and thus superior in every way – prevented him from acting on his jealousy.

“I have no need for flashy tactics,” he muttered. “A mere glance proves that I am the better miryhl. And my bonded is superior too. I’ll show them.”

“Not today!” Mhysra yelped. “We haven’t time to play primary feathers.”

He tensed, and she feared he would ignore her, but he opted to glide into a descent instead. “As you wish, chickling, though helping a bunch of incompetents stay astride second-rate miryhls doesn’t seem important to me.”

“You’re such a snob,” she said fondly, and they executed a perfect landing that proved her miryhl hadn’t stopped competing yet.

“You make it look so easy!” Mouse bounded over with Derrain, Dhori and Corin in tow. They were all visibly anxious, except the unflappable Dhori. “Is it easy? Cumulo’s big, isn’t he?”

Cumulo puffed proudly, sticking out his chest.

“Not as big as Lieutenant Lyrai’s Hurricane, though. Did you see him? People say he’s the most impressive miryhl they’ve seen in years!

“Shut the whelp up before I disembowel him,” Cumulo growled, and Mhysra dragged her friend away.

“Nervous, Mouse?” she asked, jumping into the word flow and swimming against the tide.

He shot her a sheepish glance. “A bit.” For a moment there was beautiful quiet. Then: “But I’m used to it. Hethanon says it’s my natural state. He thinks not even a boulder on the head would slow me down. He says I thrive on pressure. I’m not sure. I think I’d like a quiet life, but then I look at the miryhls and change my mind. I can’t wait to fly, even though I know I’ll fall off and end up smashed on rocks, my body ground to mush, forced to spend the rest of my life being fed through a spout -”

The exuberant flood of calamities was cut off as a firm hand was clapped over Mouse’s mouth. “That’ll do,” Derrain said, somewhat weakly.

“You’ll be fine,” Mhysra assured them all. “Even if you fall, you shouldn’t be high enough to hurt yourselves.”

Corin’s shoulders drooped. “Rub it in, why don’t you? You show up flying effortlessly, out on your own in the wide blue sky, while we’ll hardly get off the ground. Why did I think I could do this?”

“Because you’re capable, brave and ready for adventure,” Dhori consoled her, putting an arm around her shoulders. Corin’s worries vanished under a grin and Dhori raised an eyebrow. “Don’t get any ideas. I’m just being nice.”

“You’re always nice,” Mhysra said.

“Not to me,” Corin grumbled when he took his arm away. “He never stays still long enough.”

“That’s because Dhori is a very wise man.” Harlan had come along to support his cousin.

“Wisdom, ha!” Corin mocked. “You wouldn’t know wisdom if it bit you on the -”

Thank you, Corin!” Lieutenant Stirla interrupted, striding over. “I think we all know your feelings about Harlan by now.” He grinned as she blushed. “Play nicely, children, or you won’t get to fly the pretty birdies.”

“He’s not a Rider,” Corin grumbled, shooting Harlan a glare that promised retribution. “He shouldn’t be here.”

“Nor are you,” Harlan taunted. “So maybe you should leave.”

“Thank you, Harlan,” Stirla interrupted again. “Behave or I’ll order you off the field and Mouse will have to cope on his own.”

“I’ll be fine on my own,” the lad in question chirped. “He’ll only laugh when I fall off anyway.”

“Who’s fallen off?” Mherrin asked, ruffling his cousin’s hair and smiling at the others.

“No one. But they haven’t brought the birds out yet.” Mouse’s gloomy prediction cast a cloud over the group and they all fell quiet. Shaking his head, Lieutenant Stirla wandered off.

“What a cheerful bunch.” Mherrin laughed. “If my cousin can fly, anyone can.” He hopped back when Mhysra mock-punched him, grinning as he crashed into Corin. “Oh, sorry.”

For once the flirtatious girl was silent and simply stared, eyes wide and dreamy.

“Leave her alone,” Mhysra scolded, dragging her cousin away. “She has enough crushes, without adding you.”

“Always room for one more,” Corin protested.

He shot her a soulful glance and placed a hand over his heart. “I have no wish to be one of many, fairest of maidens. There is room in my heart for only one.”

“And you call Rift Riders melodramatic. Move, Mherrin, or I’ll fetch Aunt Mhylla.”

Mherrin jumped, but when he realised his mother was across the field he relaxed. “Mam’s too busy to bother with me today. That reminds me, she wants you and Cue.”

Mhysra raised her eyebrows. “And you?”

He smiled smugly and held out his hands. “No mount, cuz, so I must be content with watching the rest of you have all the fun. Alas.”

“Poor baby,” she drawled, while Corin and Mouse giggled. “Derry, please stop him from doing anything stupid.”

“Do I look like a miracle worker? You need a god for that task.”

Scowling at his unhelpfulness, she looked elsewhere. “Dhori, would you watch him, please?”

“I am not a dog,” Mherrin protested.

“No,” Derrain agreed. “A dog can be trained.”

“It would be an honour,” Dhori said calmly, while the pair tussled. “Though it’s been a while since my last miracle. My skills are a little rusty.”

“Practise makes perfect,” Mhysra said, and hurried away before she had to watch her cousin do anything embarrassing.

* * * * *

“CAN I LOOK YET?” Lyrai asked, hiding his face against Hurricane’s neck.

His fellow lieutenant and the two miryhls chuckled. “I never thought I’d say this,” Stirla murmured, “but I don’t begrudge you being appointed as flight instructor anymore.”

Lyrai lifted his head as Mouse misjudged his mounting manoeuvre and tumbled off the far side. Thankfully his miryhl was unruffled by his antics or the crowd’s laughter.

Lyrai groaned. “Kill me now.”

“Look lively, the boy is on and stable… sort of.”

Sighing, Lyrai watched Captain Myran and Mhylla Wrentherin adjust Mouse’s seat, murmuring advice – and a few prayers – before stepping back. “Ai Gods.”

Mouse stiffened as the small miryhl cast a look over his shoulder, opened his wings and jumped from the platform. There was a gasp when Mouse wobbled, but his miryhl shifted to balance him. The watchers sighed with relief as the dark eagle glided across the field, executed a careful turn, rose ten feet in the air and coasted in to land. With his student still onboard.

“A bloody miracle,” Stirla muttered, joining the applause as Mouse tumbled down and threw his arms around his miryhl’s neck. “Damn, I owe Derry a silver talon. I didn’t think he’d last the field.”

Lyrai shook his head as others in the crowd exchanged money. He should probably scold his friend for not setting a better example, but couldn’t be bothered. Instead he studied the little eagle standing patiently while Mouse rushed around him.

“That’s a good miryhl.”

“A saint,” Stirla agreed, scowling at a jubilant Derrain. “What’s he so about cheerful, isn’t he up next?”

“But richer by a talon,” Lyrai pointed out. “Plenty for a lad to be happy about.” He grinned at Stirla’s growl as they waited for the next miryhl to reach the platform.

The three days of the Choice were the biggest in a young Rider’s life. However, for the rest of the world, watching a group of youngsters fumble with their reins, fall off or barely hang on as their miryhls took an easy lap of the field was tedious. The only interest came from amusing falls or if a miryhl decided to make a bid for freedom. That was why Hurricane was there, ready to take off in an instant. If Lyrai failed to act, Stirla, Honra and Mhysra were also standing by. Some might call it overkill, but with students and young miryhls taking their first flights together there was no knowing what might happen.

As Derrain walked up the platform, he said something softly that made both Myran and Mhylla smile.

“More miracles.” Stirla raised his eyebrows. “This next year will certainly be interesting.”

Lyrai agreed, watching Derrain and his new miryhl perform their flight. Nothing showy, just a trip back and forth without any mishaps. If there was a wobble in Derrain’s legs when he dismounted, most were too busy applauding to notice. Lyrai was impressed and relieved. He could easily work with Derrain – a solid base, without overconfidence. He’d be happy with more such students, but he wasn’t optimistic.

“Halfway,” Stirla pointed out, while Dhori flew like a natural. He didn’t perform any tricks, but it was obvious that he could have completed plenty with ease. “He’s done that before.”

“Mm,” Lyrai agreed thoughtfully. “A lad of many talents.” It was already clear who was going to be this year’s star, even before they reached Aquila.

“Here comes Corin. This should be good.”

“Unkind,” Lyrai said, smiling as the diminutive girl accepted a boost into the saddle and shivered with fright.

“I don’t like heights,” she yelped, sending a ripple of amusement through the crowd.

“You live on a mountain, student,” Captain Myran pointed out.

“A mountain is solid.” The miryhl shifted and she grabbed the front of her saddle with a squeak. “It’s not very stable up here, is it?”

“Come on, Corin! I thought you weren’t afraid of anything,” someone shouted. It sounded like former-student Harlan, if Lyrai wasn’t mistaken.

“Anything, no,” she grumbled. “I’m afraid of specific things. Like falling and death.”

“You’ll be fine,” Mhylla told her brusquely, prising her hands free and wrapping them around the reins. “If you survived the selection school, you can manage one flight no higher off the ground than your own head.”

Corin pulled a face and glanced at Mhysra. “You know I said you were the luckiest person I knew?” she called. “I take it back.”

“Wisp,” Mhylla said to the miryhl. “Take her away before I damage her.”

The miryhl chuckled and leapt. Corin’s scream swiftly turned to excited whoops as her miryhl displayed an impressive turn of speed.

“That’s enough, Corin,” Mhylla shouted, as girl and miryhl took a third turn around the field.

“I love flying!”

“A useful trait, student,” Captain Myran called, “which you will have plenty of time to practise. But not now.”

For a moment it looked like they would refuse. Lyrai and the other Riders straightened, preparing to fetch her.

“Flying is a privilege, student, which can be revoked at any moment. With or without cause.” Captain Myran’s tone dropped, which anyone familiar with him knew meant no good.

It also worked on those he had only just met because, with a sigh, miryhl and student returned to the ground. The watchers settled back with disappointment.

“I thought that was going to be interesting for a moment,” Stirla grumbled.

“Like you said, halfway through,” Lyrai reminded him.

“And I signed up for this. Why did I want to become a captain again?”

“Bigger pay, shiny stripes, social prestige?” Lyrai asked.

Stirla wrinkled his nose. “Maybe.”

“And girls. Girls are impressed by titles like captain.”

“That’ll be it.” Stirla turned to watch a Storm Peak student take his turn. “Nannying. All that training and it’s come to this.” They winced as the miryhl turned a sharp corner, but his rider didn’t. “At least the lad’s well padded,” Stirla murmured, taking Atyrn to check that the boy was all right.

“All hail the glory of the Rift Riders,” Lyrai sighed, and resigned himself to the tedium.

~Next Chapter ~

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Books, Free Fiction, Overworld, Serial, Writing

Wingborn: Chapter 12, Part 2


(First time reading? Catch up Here!)

~ Previous Chapter ~

We’re halfway! And to celebrate, Lyrai’s getting a present. All brace for the Hurricane.

LYRAI WAS IN LOVE. It was quite possibly the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. Not to mention the most frustrating. The last of the Storm Peak miryhls refused to enter the temporary eyries and, as part of that refusal, would not be caught. A brute of a bird, the eagle was almost as tall as Cumulo but wider across the chest. It looked powerful and fierce, hissing at anyone who came too close.

Riders made loops out of their ropes and tried to restrain it, but the miryhl was too quick. Surprisingly nimble, it skipped out of reach, catching the loop in its beak, before tossing it contemptuously back.

Lyrai smiled at its antics, seduced by the big creature’s grace. It was an unusual colour: deep brown and pale cream mottled in an extraordinary mixture. A marble miryhl. He’d heard of them and always thought they sounded ugly. Standing before such a magnificent specimen now, though, he could see only beauty.

The miryhl’s face was the shade of sun-warmed pine, with dark circles around golden eyes. The crown of its head was the same darkness, continuing in a broad stripe down its neck and across its back, running in bars along its wings. The feathers on the underside of its body and chest were marbled from white to a brown so dark it was almost black. The wings were cream and biscuit between the dark bars, running into brown at the tips. Delicate flecks of caramel, gold and black dotted its feathers, like sparkles and secrets.

Lyrai was infatuated. There was no doubt in his mind which miryhl he would choose come the Choice, but only if the Riders didn’t drive it off first with their ineptitude.

Stirla whistled beside him. “I’ve not been so impressed since I first saw Cumulo.”

Lyrai snorted. “As that was barely a half-year ago, forgive me for not swooning.”

“Ah, but before that,” Stirla said airily, “the last time I was this impressed was by Atyrn. Not that either’s a patch on my girl, of course. Cumulo thinks he’s too smart and this one’s a brute.”

They both studied the brute in question as it ducked a loop, only to be snared by one thrown from behind. The miryhl wheeled sharply, wrenching the rope from the Rider’s hand. The eagle shrieked and snapped at all within reach, stamping on the rope and worrying at it with its beak, but only managed to tighten the knot.

“That’s not good,” Stirla murmured, wincing at the miryhl’s scream. Catching a second rope, the bird yanked the offending Rider off his feet. Only a quick grab from his friends prevented the man from being dragged within the miryhl’s reach. “You might want to intervene.”

“Fools!” Lyrai snapped as the miryhl tangled its feet in the rope. “They’ll kill it before we even get to the Choice.”

“Which is where you come in,” Stirla said. “Off you go. Pull on your captain boots and prove your mettle, or whatever it is we’re supposed to be learning around here.”

Lyrai eyed him sourly, but didn’t even bother asking why his friend didn’t do something himself. Some things were not worth the bother of putting into words. Besides this was his miryhl – it was up to him to save it.

The eagle lunged again, tripping and splaying its gorgeous wings. The Riders pounced, eager to secure it while it was preoccupied. The miryhl panicked, trying to regain its tangled feet and flapping its wings to keep the intruders at bay. More than one flight feather was damaged as they were flailed against the ground.

Sergeant Rees stamped on the miryhl’s wing to hold it down while he attempted to put a rope around the bird. Rolling to the side, the miryhl slashed out with its feet, knocking Rees over and very nearly slicing him from neck to navel.

“Enough!” Lyrai roared, deciding it had gone too far. “Stand down! I order you to stop!”

Rees struggled to his feet and found himself facing a furious miryhl, while four Riders roped its wings. They tightened their grip as the miryhl struck, barely missing the sergeant.

The eagle screamed, strained and freed a wing, beating it frantically and damaging more precious feathers on the sun-baked ground.

Stand down!” Lyrai shouted. “I said stand down! All of you!

By now six Riders clung to the ropes on the miryhl’s left, while another three had managed to loop its neck, but at Lyrai’s bellow they reluctantly let go. Even Rees rolled clear in the face of Lyrai’s rage.

“Back away from the miryhl,” he commanded, keeping his voice low, trying not to distress the bird any further.

“You heard the lieutenant,” said an unexpected but much welcomed voice. Captain Myran had arrived. “Timpkins, throw that rope and I will tie you up personally and present you to this miryhl for breakfast.”

Rider Timpkins dropped the rope as though it burned, and the circle of men shifted back another six paces. Everyone waited, looking between the miryhl and the man behind Lyrai.

A broad hand squeezed his shoulder approvingly. “Proceed, lieutenant.”

Not taking his eyes from the panicked bird, Lyrai lowered his chin in a grateful nod. “Thank you, sir. Forgive me for not saluting.”

Captain Myran chuckled. “Formalities are taken as done, lieutenant. Now soothe that miryhl.”

Lyrai nodded again and took a tentative step forward. The miryhl hissed and Lyrai sank down, resting his weight on his haunches. “All right, my beauty,” he crooned. “Steady now.”

The miryhl cautiously folded its unbound wing, though it kept an alert eye on Lyrai’s creeping progress. When he got too close the eagle growled, flexing its free foot.

“Steady,” Lyrai murmured. “You’re in a tangle and need my help. I won’t hurt you, my fine one.” Keeping his voice soft, he continued praising the miryhl and creeping closer until he was within half a pace of the sharp talons. The eagle scraped the ground but didn’t strike.

“Good, that’s good,” he praised, reaching for the tangled rope. The miryhl flinched, as did Lyrai, and both froze. They sighed in unison when neither struck and Lyrai slid his knife from his boot, careful to let the eagle see what he was doing at all times. “We’ll soon have you free, friend.” Reaching for the ropes, he sliced through a third of the thickly woven width before the miryhl jerked.

“All right,” Lyrai crooned. “Think you can handle it now?”

Watching Lyrai warily, the miryhl stretched out. With a crack of that deadly beak, it snapped the rope.

“Good,” Lyrai whispered, pulling the bindings free and taking care not to touch the miryhl before it was ready. “There.” Tugging the last of the rope away, Lyrai hopped back as the bird rolled to its feet, but when it found its left wing still tied it shrieked in outrage.

“Watch out!”

Until now the Riders have been mercifully silent, but as one onlooker shouted the obvious the miryhl remembered it wasn’t alone and lunged for the nearest target.

Swallowing hard, Lyrai dropped to his knees, keeping his hands low and his head bowed. A puff of air caressed his cheek as the bird’s beak passed but didn’t make contact. Not daring to move, hardly daring to breathe, Lyrai waited, watching the shadow on the grass as the miryhl loomed over him.

Warm breath separated his hair, then touched his forehead, nose and chin, before a smooth beak rested against his cheek and chest. Lyrai barely had time to look up before he was flat on his back, the wind knocked from him by a hard shove.

Deep brown eyes glinted as the miryhl arched its neck and put them beak-to-nose. “Untie me,” it rasped, and though its voice was hoarse from its screams it was also clearly male.

Lyrai blinked, stunned at being spoken to so causally. He nodded. “Let me up first.”

Huffing, the miryhl moved back a pace, allowing Lyrai to roll to his feet and snatch up his knife. In the end he didn’t need it, the noose slackened beneath his fingers and the eagle was free. The big male swung his head to meet Lyrai’s gaze, nodded in thanks and launched, broad wings opening with a crack.

“Wait!” Lyrai called. Buffeted by the downdraft as the miryhl flew into the gathering dusk, he could only watch with envy as the bird powered away. Lyrai wanted this miryhl; no other would do.

“Congratulations, lieutenant.” Captain Myran watched the glorious eagle swirl around the mountainside. “You handled that admirably. I assume you have no need to wait for the Choice?”

Lyrai barely heard the praise – a rare honour from his captain that at any other time would have filled him with pleasure. “He spoke.”

“I noticed.” Myran sounded amused. “Perhaps when he returns you should take him to the Rider eyries. I don’t think he liked the look of the other one.”

“He spoke to me,” Lyrai repeated, not paying attention. “Without a ceremony or a temporary bond. Or anything.”


“I want him. If he doesn’t come back, I’ll look for him.”

Captain Myran patted him on the shoulder. “He’ll be back.” When Lyrai still didn’t look at him, the captain turned away. “Come on, Stirla, let’s see how the other new arrivals are faring. Your fellow lieutenant’s a little preoccupied.”

Preoccupied was not how Lyrai would have put it, more like ensnared. It was as though by releasing the miryhl from the ropes, he’d entangled himself. For the briefest moment it had felt glorious. When the miryhl loomed over him, capable of killing with one blow, he hadn’t felt afraid. His heart had pounded, but not with panic, and when he spoke Lyrai felt as though Maegla Herself had smiled on him.

Now all he felt was anxious. What would he do if he didn’t come back? There wasn’t another miryhl on the entire Overworld that could compare. It was this one or none.

“You have to come back,” he whispered to the empty field. “You have to.”

So he waited, while everyone else got on with their lives in the warm summer evening. Kneeling like a supplicant before the gods, Lyrai remained on the flying field. The first stars opened their eyes above him and the moon climbed over the Cloud Sea. Oblivious to the passing time and growing numbness in his legs, all Lyrai could do was watch the spot where he’d last seen the miryhl.

A cool wind drifted over the grass, raising goosebumps on his skin, but he ignored it.

Until a soft voice murmured, “Still here?”

Not daring to look over his shoulder, Lyrai swallowed. “Yes.”

“Have you nowhere better to be?”

At the hint of amusement, Lyrai turned. A hiss of pain escaped as the blood flowed back into his legs and he flinched when the miryhl lowered his beak to rub them.

“I was waiting for you,” Lyrai said, when he felt able to speak. “I wasn’t sure you’d return.”

The miryhl straightened and tilted his head. “In some things we have no choice.”

Unsure how to take that, Lyrai attempted to stand instead. He had to do it in stages on his reawakened legs but, with a little help from the eagle, he finally stood on his own.

Rumbling with concern, the miryhl nuzzled him. “You must not wait again. I don’t like it.”

Smiling, Lyrai carefully stroked the feathers on the eagle’s head, relaxing when they rose and the bird purred his enjoyment. “I hope I’ll never need to.”


They fell silent as Lyrai tickled the miryhl’s head, uncertain how to proceed. This was new for him and he was at a loss over what to do.

“Must I sleep there?” the miryhl asked, nodding at the rickety structure built for the Choice.

He chuckled. “No.”

“Good.” The eagle sighed with relief and preened Lyrai’s hair. “It does not look safe.”

“It’s well enough,” Lyrai promised, enjoying the attention. “For a few days.”

The miryhl huffed, unconvinced, and bowed his head. “I am Hurricane.”

“Lyrai. Lieutenant Lyrai Henstrati Henrykran.”

And that was all they needed. Without another word, Lyrai showed his new miryhl to the Rider eyries and wondered whatever happened to ceremony and ritual, and whether they truly meant anything after all. It certainly felt better this way.

~ Next Chapter ~

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Thanks for reading!