Overworld, Updates

October Overworld Takeover!

It’s been a while since I last updated, so I thought not only was it time to catch up, but since it’s a new month and I have a new Overworld series about to begin, why not have an Overworld October?

Changes have been afoot for me. Mages of Royas Bay has finished and I’ve shut down my Patreon (for various reasons). Hopefully this means I’ll have more time to post here. Starting tomorrow with a brand new book from a brand new series, set in a very familiar world.

Misfits of Aquila
Aquila’s Originals Book 1

On a world cursed to be covered in clouds, the elite eagle-riding Rift Riders rule the skies. Five years after the events of the Wingborn series,  a new class is ready to join them – but this year’s crop is unlike any other.

The first Ihran to ever to train as a Rider; a rebellious princess in hiding; an atheist cast out of a deeply religious society; a student from the land where Riders are banned – and Rhiddyl. The Riders have never trained anyone quite like her before.

But it isn’t so easy to reach Aquila, the Rider’s legendary home. First they must pass the selection school and face the Choice, where they will be united with their eagle companions in a bond that will last the rest of their lives.

No pressure.

Welcome back to the Overworld. A new adventure has begun.

If you’ve never read an Overworld book before, don’t worry. While some of the background characters might be familiar to longtime readers, this is a brand new series, no prior knowledge needed. Jump right in and (hopefully) enjoy!

But this isn’t all I’ve been working on. Oh no. Four years after the first Overworld ebooks were released, I finally have something long planned for and promised on the way…


If you’re an old school reader and prefer to hold real books in your hand, I am finally about to have something for you. They’re not ready yet and still need a fair few tweaks here and there – I haven’t even ordered proofs of the last three yet. But they are coming. Finally.

I hope to have release details about Wingborn over the next few weeks, with the others to follow on a roughly monthly basis after. But books! Real books! Ones you can hold in your actual hands. I might even go completely wild and release the Dragonlands too while I’m at it.

But that’s probably a project for next year. Right here and now it’s all about Misfits and Wingborn, and I might even throw in a few extra stories, deleted scenes and drabbles in if I’m feeling so inclined.

Possibly a paperback giveaway, if anyone’s interested?

We’ll see. I have no real idea what Overworld October will entail, so feel free to make requests. For now, though, I shall hope you’re all staying safe and well, and taking care of yourselves and your loved ones. I’ll be back tomorrow with a brand new adventure.

Merry October, everyone!

Free Fiction, Mages of Wrystan, Overworld, Patreon, Updates

The End of World’s End… and Beyond!

In case you weren’t aware World’s End is done! No more Wingborn. Unless you’re a Patron and have exclusive online access to Aftermath, of course. In which case you have another 30 chapters or so.

For those of you who aren’t on Patreon, no worries, you still have two months left before you reach the end. However, if you sign up now, not only will you get to read the end right this moment, you’ll also have access to the follow-up serial, Aftermath, which won’t be serialised anywhere else. Everyone will have a chance to buy it when the World’s End ebook comes out, but it won’t be on here and it won’t be on Wattpad. Just so you know.

Anyway, brief sales pitch aside, I need to know what you lovely people will want to read next. As you may or may not know, I’m terribly behind thanks to the unplanned events of last year, so while I am working hard on a new series, I still have the last two Dragonlands books to edit and release, along with World’s End and Aftermath.

In other words, these next few months are going to be busy and I can’t guarantee the new series will be ready to go once Wingborn and Dragonlands are all wrapped up.

So I have a few choices to lay before you. Will you be patient or greedy? Will you want it all, now, now, now? Or can you wait just a little bit longer?

Here are your options. Please vote below – and leave a comment if you want to know more!

1. Misfits of Aquila (Aquila’s Own 1)
My current project. Takes place 5 or so years after World’s End and returns to Aquila with a bunch of new Rift Rider students. Including the first Ihran, an atheist Sutheralli, Lyrai’s little sister and a certain young dragon. Plus one or two familiar faces and several brand new ones. And a little miryhl called Milk.
(In progress. Expected Arrival: Late 2020)

2. Thief’s Gamble (Foundations of Aquila 0.5)
An Overworld novella about a thief and her miryhl stealing a dragon’s egg by order of a pirate. The rest of the series will include the creation of Aquila, and should include the thief, a disgraced royal and some sundry others.
(Completed. Expected Arrival: Mid-2020)

3. Mages of Royas Bay (Mages of Wrystan 1)
An entirely different world, with more of a Middle Grade feel. Still fantasy. Still a fantasy school. Has more magic. Includes young mages and their mage-beasts, which are not familiars or daemons, but sort of are. They don’t talk, but they have big personalities. I love this world, it’s probably my favourite of the many I write (even more than the Overworld) and I have three full books I could share with you while I work hard on building up my next Overworld series. So if you want to keep reading from me while I work on something else, this is probably the one that makes my life easiest.
(Completed. Expected Arrival: April)

Pick! Pick! Pick!

Thank you!

Books, Free Fiction, Overworld, Serial, Writing

Aquila’s War Character List

Aquila's War Banner 2

Better late than never, right?

Here’s the list of all the characters in this book to help you keep track. It contains all the named characters in alphabetical order and will be updated as I go. It’s only a brief summary of each person, so if there’s more you’d like to see/know, or I’ve missed someone, let me know and I’ll see what I can do (as long as it doesn’t involve spoilers).

Continue reading “Aquila’s War Character List”

Overworld, Serial, Writing

Storm Wings Character List

Storm Wings Banner

Because there are a lot of characters in this series, in a variety of locations, I’m providing this list to help keep track of everyone. It contains all the named characters in alphabetical order and will be updated as I go. It’s only a brief summary of each person, so if there’s more you’d like to see/know, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.


Adyn – regular member of the Aquila Resistance.
Alyne – Rift Rider student. At Aquila. Deceased.
Argon – Jaymes’ miryhl. Male.
Atyrn – Stirla’s miryhl. Female.
Bhern – Rift Rider student. Male. At Aquila.
Birch – miryhl. Male. Formerly bonded to Sergeant Rees, temporarily assigned to Neryth.
Blaze – Honra’s miryhl. Male.
Brathyn/Brath – Rift Rider lieutenant.
Bumble – nakhound pup. Was Mhysra’s, now part of the Aquila pack.
Chepney – Rift Rider Commander of Storm Peaks and Mistrune. Known as Old Cheery.
Corin – Rift Rider student. Female. Dragongifted.
Cumulo/Cue – Wingborn. Mhysra’s miryhl. Male.
Derneon Weaponsmith – Ihran blacksmith and instructor at Aquila.
Derrain/Derry – Rift Rider student. Male.
Dhori – Rift Rider student. Male.
Dreffen – Rift Rider General of the West. Lazy.
Emberbright – Fire dragonet. Jaymes’ Dragongift.
Estenarix kin Boulderforce Clan Stoneheart – a rough, gruff, amusing stone dragon.
(Lord) Ferdyn Salis – member of the Havia Special Force (HSF).
Flash – Honra’s miryhl.
Fleik – Rift Rider lieutenant.
Fredkhen – Rift Rider lieutenant. Deceased.
Gedanon Swordsmaster – Ihran weapon instructor at Aquila.
Gethyr – regular member of the Aquila Resistance.
(Lord) Godfrey Rytoth – member of the HSF.
(Elder) Goryal Clan Starshine – one of the oldest and most powerful dragons alive. They look small and fragile, but they most definitely are not.
Greig – Rift Rider student. Male. At Aquila.
Haelle – Rift Rider student. Female. At Aquila.
Heirayk – Overworld Sun God.
(King) Heryff – King of Havia. The Old Pyrefly.
Hethanon Armsmaster – Ihran trainer at Nimbys Selection School.
Heyfen Wydbeam – member of the HSF.
Hlen – Rift Rider lieutenant.
Honra – former sergeant to Lyrai, now a lieutenant.
Hurricane/Cane – Lyrai’s miryhl. Male.
Hylan – Rift Rider Captain. At Etheria.
Imaino – Rift Rider lieutenant. At Aquila. Leader of the resistance.
Jarquais – One of the forgotten Gods, now associated with darkness by those who don’t know what they’re talking about.
Jasper – Fleik’s Miryhl. Male.
Jaymes – Rift Rider student. Male. Dragongifted.
Jym – member of the Aquila Resistance. Formerly a kennel worker.
Keipen – Rift Rider General of the South. Ferocious.
Kern Kennuk – Havian lord (like an earl) and member of the HSF.
Korfei – Rift Rider Captain. East Havia.
Koyl (Koreth fra Koyl) – Kevian warehouse owner.
Latinym – Dhori’s miryhl. Male.
Lehno – healer. Deceased.
Litha – Cleansed Lands healer. Seems to know Dhori quite well.
Lithaen – Overworld Sky Goddess.
(Lord) Lorfyn Ketthik – founder and leader of the HSF. Stirla’s bane.
Lyrai – Rift Rider Lieutenant.
Maegla – Overworld Storm Goddess.
Marshall – former Dean of Aquila. Deceased.
Mercata – Willym’s miryhl. Female.
Mhysra Kilpapan – Wingborn. Rift Rider student. Female.
Mimi and Mirro – Neryth’s miryhl pair. Pretty, but not strong.
Lord Morfrye Salis – member of the HSF.
Mouse – Rift Rider student. Male. At Aquila.
Myran – Rift Rider Captain. At Nimbys.
Naelya – Rift Rider student. Female. At Aquila.
Natten – Rift Rider student. Male. At Aquila.
Nehtl – healer, Mouse’s mentor. Tortured to death by Willym.
(Princess) Neryth – Princess of Havia. Pretending to be a Rider, much to Stirla’s dismay.
Neshal – regular member of the Aquila Resistance. Deceased.
Nightriver – Water dragon. Mouse’s Dragongift. Ancient guardian of Aquila.
Nordei – Rift Rider Captain. At Kaskad.
Rechar – Rift Rider. Member of the Aquila Resistance.
(Archivist) Reglian kin Thunderwing Clan Skystorm – a nosy black dragon.
Rekko – Rift Rider. At Lansbrig.
Rhiddyl (Rhidystel) kin Tempestfury Clan Skystorm – young wingling dragon.
Riame – female creepy pirate twin.
Rion – male creepy pirate twin.
Rossen – Rift Rider student. Male. At Aquila.
Silveo – Rift Rider student. Male. At Aquila.
Skybreeze – Air dragonet. Corin’s Dragongift.
Stirla – Rift Rider lieutenant.
Surl Falfroth – Havian lord (like a baron) and member of the HSF.
Symal – healer. Deceased.
Ullimn – member of the Aquila Resistance. Formerly a kennel worker.
Velleyn – Rift Rider. At Lansbrig.
Willym – former Rift Rider lieutenant, traitor, murderer.
Wisp – Corin’s miryhl. Female.
Yullik – creator and ruler of the kaz-naghkt. The enemy.
Zephyr – Derry’s miryhl. Female.


Overworld, Serial, Writing

Dragongift Character List

Dragongift Banner

Because there are a lot of characters in this book, in a variety of locations, I’m providing this list to help keep track of everyone. It contains all the named characters in alphabetical order and will be updated as I go. It’s only a brief summary of each person, so if there’s more you’d like to see/know, let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

As always, this contains spoilers for Rift Riders, so if you haven’t read that, don’t look at this. Don’t even glance! Heed the warning!! You have been warned!!!! Warning! Warning! etc ;D

Continue reading “Dragongift Character List”

Free Fiction, Overworld, Writing

Deleted Scene: Cue vs Cane


This deleted scene features characters from the Wingborn series.
For more stories and info about the novels, please head here.

This deleted scene was taken out of what is now Chapter 12 of Wingborn, where Mhysra and Cumulo are flying over the Cloud Sea. In the book they spot a strange ship approaching Nimbys, which leads to meeting Captain Torven, who is something of a charmer, but originally they meet someone else first.

Hurricane – and not in a friendly way.

I removed this because a friend pointed out (quite rightly) that Cue was unlikely to risk Mhysra in such a way. Plus it didn’t really fit Hurricane either – and would have made things tricky between him and Cue going forward. So I removed it. But I still like the feral approach, which is why I’m sharing it now.

If you’d like to see a more canon version of Cue and Cane’s first meeting, Facing the Hurricane is a short story that deals with just that.

CUMULO TUCKED HIS wings in and dropped several feet, before catching them again – an airborne sigh. “You think too much,” he said, his voice a reassuring vibration against her.

“I was only asking,” she grumbled. “A fair question, after what you said.”

He clucked reproachfully. “I was joking. Since you started training you’ve lost all sense of humour. Not that you had much to begin with.”

She smiled into his feathers, loving the clean smell of him touched with a sweet hint of dust. “Did it ever occur to you that you’re just not funny?”

“Of course not. The fault has always been yours.”


“But even without a true appreciation for my genius, I’d rather have you than anyone. I can’t imagine a better flight partner. You’re my Wingborn. Even though I can’t live without you, I neither wish to, nor can imagine trying. I’m yours as you are mine. If I made disparaging remarks about the Choice it’s because I pity the arriving miryhls. They’ll never have what we do, nor comprehend what they’re missing. You are like flight to me.”

Stunned to hear such words from her proud and often irreverent Wingborn, Mhysra couldn’t speak. Instead she reached forward as far as she could and hugged him tightly. Tears stung her eyes, from the cold and the wind as well as emotion, and she buried her face in his feathers.

“Are you crying?” he rumbled. “You’d better not be crying. Your nose always runs when you cry and it ruins my feathers. I am not a handkerchief.”

Chuckling, she sat up and wiped her face. “I’m not crying.”

“Good. It would damage my reputation should anyone catch you being so unashamedly girlish. There is no room for maudlin sentiment in the Riders.”

“Yes, sir,” she chirped, saluting cheekily.

“Are you mocking me, student?” he growled, in an accurate impersonation of Sergeant Rees.

“Never, sir.”

“Because if you were, student, I would have to take severe action.”

“I would never dare mock you, most gracious and brilliant sir.”

“Good. I should hate, for example, to have to do this!” His wings tucked in tight, clamping her legs against his sides as they plummeted into freefall. Had Mhysra been a little less familiar with her miryhl it would have been terrifying, especially when the world turned on its side and the clouds rushed up to meet them, but after years of flying together she knew him almost as well as she knew herself. Which was why when she felt his wings twitch, she gripped his neck feathers, tightened her thighs and held on.

She still screamed, though, when Cumulo began to spin. Her heart thundered, her lungs ceased to work and her eyes closed. The wind roared in her ears, slapping her face and pulling at her hair as it raced over them, and they tumbled down and around. With a final roll, Cumulo righted himself, swooping across the clouds and scattered rocks below.

Mhysra laughed breathlessly, her face buried against his neck. “You’ll kill me one day.”

He didn’t answer. A new tension tightened through him and he powered upwards with heavy beats of his wings, lifting them higher with each down draft.

Surprised, Mhysra opened her eyes and sat up. “Cumulo, what -?”

“Keep down,” he snapped, dropping sharply and rising again, jolting her firmly against him.

Winded and confused, she obeyed, while scanning the skies for the threat. She’d never known him act in such a way. It was completely out of character, not least because this way of flying usually took too much effort for his more indolent nature. She remembered the kaz-naghkt attack that had occurred just a few months ago, and her heart skipped a beat.

Then she saw it. A miryhl, unencumbered by rider or harness, heading towards Nimbys with easy flaps of its enormous wings. And Cumulo was headed straight for it.

“Stop!” she shouted. “Are you mad? What do you think you’re doing? Cumulo!”

Ignoring her protests, Cumulo shrieked a challenge at the unfamiliar bird, labouring to get higher and achieve superiority in the air.

“Cumulo, leave be!”

“You’re mine,” he growled. “I won’t let him take you.”

“He doesn’t want me,” she snapped, while the newcomer swooped around, circling to gain height. He showed no signs of attacking, but was clearly prepared to defend. Not that Mhysra felt comforted, especially when she took in his size. He was easily as big as Cumulo, and more. Older too, with fully developed flight and fight muscles.

Seeing this strange male in all his unrestrained glory reminded her how young her Wingborn was. By rights he shouldn’t have a Rider yet, and it was only through virtue of their bond that he had developed as quickly as he had. He wasn’t even fully grown.

“Cumulo,” she begged as the two males circled warily, both trying to gain height. “Cumulo, please.”

Ignoring her, Cumulo allowed the other male to go higher, then swept underneath, turning on his back, talons extended in a swipe.

“No!” Almost unseated by the unprecedented move, for the first time ever Mhysra hauled on the reins. Unlike a horsat or pyrefly bridle, the miryhl head collar had no bit and was designed for directional purposes rather than control. But if Cumulo’s attack had been unanticipated, Mhysra’s reaction was even more so. Jerked unexpectedly to the left, he missed his swipe and was forced to roll over or drop completely.

Enraged, he snapped at her over one shoulder, but when he tried to lunge at the other miryhl again, she pulled to the right.

“Stop it, Cumulo!” she yelled, desperate to be heard over his defiant screams. “Stop!”

Shaking his head, he swooped around for another go, but the male was gone. Mhysra spotted him first, flying like the wind away from Nimbys, and she was grateful for it. Such a large male would have been perfectly within his rights to fight back. It was rare for bonded miryhls to fight, taking their rank from their Rider or their own natural dominance, but an unbonded miryhl was still subject to the instincts of its wild cousins, and miryhls were a territorial breed. With the added restrictions of his harness and the weight of a Rider, Cumulo would have been at a disadvantage and could have gotten both himself and Mhysra killed.

“Maegla be thanked for smart birds,” she muttered, praying the other miryhl would keep flying at such a pace, since Cumulo was determined to follow. She considered trying to stop him again, but when she tightened her hands on the reins, he lowered his head and growled, the sound vibrating through his body.

“As you wish,” she grumbled, relaxing her fingers. He was tiring already, since the pace was not what he was used to, and he wouldn’t be able to keep it up much longer. Endurance was something that came with age, experience and regular exercise. At first they closed the distance to the stranger, but gradually as they flew on, Cumulo began to slow and drop back. Growling with frustration, he took long glides between each sequence of wing beats, while the other male continued to power away.

“That’s enough, Cue,” she advised in a low murmur. “You’ve driven him off.”

He shook his head, but was slower than ever and beginning to pant. Mhysra was concerned they wouldn’t make it back to Nimbys, and would have to find a place to rest. It was just typical that the stranger had been flying out over the Cloud Sea, where there wasn’t any civilisation for thousands of miles.

Cumulo sagged beneath her, the fight going out of him, and she gripped him in panic. “Cue?” she called frantically. “Are you well?”

Huffing, he tilted his wings and swooped in a wide circle until they were facing Nimbys again, far in the distance. He barely flapped as they drifted back home, though his heart still raced beneath her. “Sorry,” he muttered, clearly reluctant. “Thought he was feral.”

Mhysra bit her lip to keep from pointing out that of the two miryhls, he was the one who had behaved wildly, harnessed or not. “There are no feral miryhls now, Cue. You know that.”

“He took me by surprise. Couldn’t risk it.”

She growled. “You’re lucky he left. He was bigger than you, you idiot. You could have killed us both!”

Cumulo said nothing, just gave a surly flap of his wings and landed on a small outcrop, barely visible over the Cloud Sea. “But I didn’t.”

Knowing better than to argue, she kicked free of her stirrups and slid from her saddle, making her displeasure known by turning her back to him.

“Don’t be angry with me,” he crooned, lifting her braid and running it through his beak. “Chickling, don’t be cross.” He rubbed his head against her back and, when she started shivering, hooked his beak over her shoulder and drew her under his wing. “Sorry.”

Sighing, she snuggled against him, grateful that his feathers kept out the worst of the chill. The winds were strong down here, tricky and cunning, finding their way through clothes and feathers alike.

“Mhysra,” he purred, sticking his head under his wing. “Don’t be angry with me.”

“I should be furious,” she grumbled, and he huffed with amusement, sensing he’d won. She shoved him away. “Don’t do it again, Cue. I won’t have you fighting. Feral or no. Never provoke another miryhl like that. Especially not when Riders are involved. It’s too dangerous, to the Riders and yourselves. We’ll have more than enough fighting to do without you making things worse.”

“But you’re mine,” he rumbled. “I will fight to keep you.”

“You won’t,” she snapped. “You know I’d never leave you. I’m not some fickle mate, flitting off with a male who has glossier feathers. I’m your Wingborn. We’re tied together for life. No one can break that.”

Still rumbling, he preened her hair and repeated, “You’re mine.”

Defeated, Mhysra resigned herself to his possessiveness. He was still young, and barely approaching maturity. She hoped he grew some wisdom soon, or they would both be in trouble when they reached Aquila. If they reached Aquila. She still didn’t know what her parents would say when they found out what she’d been doing with her time in the city.

Pushing free of both her thoughts and Cumulo, she tucked her freshly preened hair behind her ears and looked around, wondering how far from Nimbys they were, and whether Cumulo was fit enough to take them back. She didn’t even want to consider what they would do should he prove unable.

Thanks for reading!

Free Fiction, Overworld, Writing

Surviving Stirla: 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.

|| Part One ||

This story takes place during Wingborn and features a survival skills lesson, taught by Lieutenant Stirla. If it were in the book it would appear just before Chapter 21.

Mouse and fire… what could possibly go wrong?

FIRE! ACTUAL FIRE! Gods, Mouse could hardly contain his excitement. He was going to learn how to make fire!

Not that he couldn’t light a fire. He was a country boy: he’d made up the hearth fire back at home more times than he cared to count. Even on the days when his brothers had pissed on the kindling and hidden the flint in order to get him into trouble. But he’d still lit it, because otherwise his father —

No. No. He wouldn’t think of that. He’d think of fire, and how to start it from scratch out in the wild. He’d listen to Lieutenant Stirla and learn how to survive. Not just in the wild, but everywhere. Because that’s what he wanted to be these days, a survivor. He didn’t want to think back to his life on the farm, or his brothers or father. He didn’t ever want to go back there. Not now, not ever. He’d far rather stay here at Aquila, where he had friends and instructors, where he could learn how to take care of himself, how to fight, how to survive.

There was no one here to lock him in the chest. No one hear to piss on his kindling. No one here to —

No. Stop.

Mouse shook his head firmly, dislodging his memories and tried to focus on what Lieutenant Stirla was saying. He was a big man, was Stirla, even bigger than Mouse’s father, taller than his brothers, with hands the size of dinner plates. But he wasn’t mean. He didn’t shout. He smiled, he joked, he laughed. He still made Mouse nervous when he came too close, but not because of fear. Or not just out of fear. He wanted to impress Lieutenant Stirla so much. He wanted to impress everyone. He wanted to be different. He wanted to be important, to be smart, to matter.

He stuck close to Derrain as Stirla urged them to break into groups and form smaller circles. Derrain was big too, but he was Mouse’s friend. He still wanted to impress him, but Derrain never made him nervous. Not like Mhysra. She was amazing. Mouse wanted to impress her all the time – no, not just impress her, he wanted to be her. Not just because she was Wingborn either, even though she and Cumulo were incredible in the sky. No, Mouse wanted to stand up to his family the way Mhysra had defied hers. She might have been quiet and a little shy at times, but she was strong. Mouse wanted to be strong too, so he nudged Derrain until he pulled Mhysra into their circle, along with Corin and Dhori.

His friends. Mouse’s friends. He’d never thought he’d have friends, and never ones as good as these. Nerves skittered through his body, making him bounce and jitter, even as they knelt down on the sandy floor and formed a little fire pit in the middle of their circle. He couldn’t sit still, this was too important.




He had to impress them all. He had to show them he was clever too, that he could be strong. That he would survive.

Lieutenant Stirla was talking as he walked around the room. Derrain and Corin moved away to collect kindling and wood. Mouse wriggling on his knees, waiting for the moment, waiting for his moment.

Stirla handed out flints to each circle, still talking, talking, talking. There was stuff about safety and covering tracks, watching out for damp wood and keeping back from the flames, blah, blah, blah. Mouse already knew how to light fires from flint sparks. That was easy.

“Here.” He grabbed the flint from Dhori’s hand. It wasn’t like Dhori needed it. He was so incredibly capable that he could probably light a fire just by sighing at a wood pile. But if he couldn’t, well, here was Mouse’s chance to show everyone what he could do, what he was capable of.

He might not know anything about how to fly a miryhl, he might not be any good with a weapon, nor add up his numbers too well, or remember his history just right, but he certainly knew how to use a flint to light a fire.

Stirla was still talking, this time about using twigs and fireboards and string and other things that Mouse wasn’t paying attention to. None of it mattered, because Derrain and Corin were back and they had kindling.

“Here. Let me,” Mouse insisted, heaping all the kindling into a big pile.

“I don’t think we’re suppose to use it all at once,” Derrain said, sounding amused as Mouse piled the wood on top. “We’ve a whole lesson to last through, you know.”

Mouse didn’t care. This was his one chance, his big chance, to impress everyone. He didn’t need to wait for the lieutenant to finish talking – because he was still going on and on and on and sounded as though he was never going to stop.

“Trust me,” Mouse said, feeling his jitters grow as he pulled his knife from his belt. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”

So saying, he angled his flint against the kindling and struck his knife blade against it. A shower of sparks fell onto the kindling, but nothing caught.

Frowning, Mouse tried again, harder this time.

Still nothing.

Growling with frustration and beginning to heat with embarrassment, he bent lower over his flint and struck, struck, struck, struck, struck, his knife becoming a blur as he scraped the flint again and again and again.

Sparks rained down, much like the weather beyond the window, and he began puffing hard from the effort.

“Hey!” someone shouted over the rushing filling Mouse’s ears. “Stop!”

Mouse scraped the flint one last time and looked up, blinking in confusion to find Stirla looming over him with a face like thunder. Just like back home. Just like his father.

He cringed downwards.

And the fire roared into life.


“SO,” LYRAI GREETED, sauntering into Stirla’s room that evening and sprawling in the armchair. “How was your day?”

Having been studying the worst of the damage in the mirror, sighing over the sight, Stirla eyed his friend over the bandages swathing his fingers. He rubbed the newly bald patch at the front of his head – which matched his missing eyebrows – and scowled. “I’ve had better.”

Grinning, Lyrai pulled an apple from his pocket and crunched into it. “Mouse and fire, eh?” he mumbled around his mouthful. “Who knew that would be such a… flammable combination? No wonder you were so cheerful at lunchtime. Everything went as planned, then?”

“Shut up, you arse,” Stirla huffed, stomping across the room to steal the apple from Lyrai’s hand.

At least, he tried, but with his fingers heavily wrapped in bandages, he merely thumped the fruit onto the floor.

Lyrai slowly finished chewing his mouthful as they both watched the shiny apple bounce over the carpet and roll under the dresser. “At least you didn’t burn down the practise barn.”

No, they’d just scorched the floor and the walls a bit. Gedanon was not happy.

“And you all made it out in one piece,” his friend continued, then looked Stirla over and grinned. “Mostly.”

Stirla made a rude gesture, but the effect was somewhat muted by the bandages.

Lyrai cackled.

“Some friend you are,” he groused bitterly.

His fellow lieutenant pulled another apple from his pocket and began to eat that instead. “Poor Stirla, why don’t you sit down and tell your Uncle Lyrai all about it? And try not to fret too much. Your eyebrows will grow back eventually, and I must say, the constantly surprised look is good for you. Lady Milluqua would approve.”

Having been lowering himself into the second armchair, ready to indeed tell his friend all about it, Stirla changed his mind. Bandages or no bandages, he was still perfectly capable of hauling his skinny runt of a so-called friend up by an arm and his collar and tossing him from the room.

Minus his apple, of course.

“Good to know you’re feeling better,” Lyrai chuckled, once he’d regained his feet. Standing in the hall, he straightened his uniform, smoothed his hair and shot Stirla a wink. “I’ll be sure to give Lady Mhysra a full report. Just so she can assure her sister of your rude health, of course.”

“Piss off, Runt,” Stirla growled, slamming the door on his friend’s laughter.

“Very rude health,” Lyrai shouted, pounding a farewell on the door before he left.

Stirla shook his head and took a vicious bite out of the apple, but this time when he returned to assess the damage in the mirror, he found himself smiling.

Thanks for reading!

Free Fiction, Overworld, Writing

Surviving Stirla: 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.

This story takes place during Wingborn and features a survival skills lesson, taught by Lieutenant Stirla. If it were in the book it would appear just before Chapter 21.

And yes, considering Stirla is teaching a group that includes Mhysra, Corin and most especially Mouse, it really is as dangerous as it sounds :D

Surviving Stirla

19th Gale Month

STIRLA WAS LOOKING forward to today. He’d been back at Aquila now for just over two months and, even if he did say so himself, he was definitely getting the hang of this teaching lark. Alongside his duties as a lieutenant, Stirla was feeling confident that he could do this. One day he would become a captain – and he hoped he would prove to be a good one.

He just had to get his students through their three years at Aquila first, equipping them with everything they would need to survive in the wild. Not that he ever intended to abandon them out there without him, but who knew what the Overworld would throw at them in the future?

Which brought him back to today’s lesson.

Grinning, he pushed his way into the classroom, delighted to see that his students had already pushed all the tables back against the walls, with the chairs stacked on top. They eyed him curiously as he sauntered towards the board at the head of the room, their looks turning wary as he rubbed his hands together with anticipation.

“Good afternoon, students,” he greeted cheerfully.

“Afternoon, sir,” they replied cautiously.

“Today’s a big day for all of you,” he announced, rocking on his toes and trying not to laugh as the first-years traded glances with each other. “You’ve been here for two moons already, and I’ve already taught you plenty about building shelters and telling good plants from bad. Now it’s time for the big one.”

Frowns and baffled expressions faced him, making Stirla smile. He had them nicely confused, which was how he preferred things. Well, all except for Dhori, of course. That lad had his arms folded over his chest, one dark eyebrow raised, a wry smile on his mouth, leaving Stirla in little doubt that he knew exactly what was coming.

Stirla raised both eyebrows at the student, silently asking if he was about to spoil his lieutenant’s fun. Dhori shook his head – smart lad.

Before anyone else could figure out the obvious, or start asking questions – as he could see Corin was itching to do – Stirla clapped his hands together. Their attention snapped towards him and he grinned once more.

“Come along, students. It’s time to face your fate.”


“WELL, THAT WAS nicely ominous,” Corin muttered as their class filed out of the doorway in Stirla’s wake. “What’s coming up next? Ritual sacrifice to appease the Gods in case we get caught out in a blizzard and separated from the rest of the Riders?”

Derrain and Mouse snickered and Mhysra smiled. While no one could deny that Stirla’s lessons were useful and full of all kinds of practical information they would all need one day or another, their lieutenant definitely favoured a dramatic style of teaching.

He taught them how to build a shelter in the forest, not because Riders often camped out in the wild and had to make do with the world around them, but in case one day their miryhl was caught up in a rogue gust of wind, separated from their flurry, thrown down a ravine and left wounded, with the Rider having to hike their way out in search of help.

Plant identification wasn’t simply to supplement supplies in the evening cook pot, but in case a great fireball struck the Overworld one night, killing off all civilisation as they knew it and leaving them to forage alone and starving in the uncaring wild.

Identifying poisonous berries had everything to do with future assassination attempts on despots attempting to seize control of the Riders.

Mhysra could not even imagine what they would be learning next, or what scenario Stirla had dreamt up to justify it.

“At least his lessons are never boring,” Mouse chortled, bouncing along as irrepressible as ever. Although he was usually the student who fretted the most over Stirla’s imaginary futures, he also seemed to revel more than most in the challenge of living up to each task. Even if he rarely did it well. Mouse was simply too bouncy and lively for patience. “I hope he’s going to teach us how to whittle our own weapons and how to hunt bears with twigs!”

“Just in case a great plague sweeps through the major cities, followed by catastrophic fires, and we have to take to the wild, existing solely on a diet of bunnies and berries,” Derrain said, winking at Mhysra. “And bears.”

She grinned as Mouse bounced even harder. “Oh! Oh! And we’ll learn how to make cutlery, ‘cause even the wilderness can be civilised some times. It’ll be so much fun!”

“I’ve never heard anyone get so excited over cutlery before,” Corin muttered.

Chuckling Derrain nudged his shoulder against hers. “Not even cutlery crafted out of three twigs and a bit of flint tied together with gut strings?”

“Ew.” Corin wrinkled her nose.

Even Mouse stopped bouncing long enough to pull a face. “No guts on the cutlery, Derry. That’s disgusting.”

“Maybe not the guts,” Dhori agreed, calm and quiet as always. “But sinew works wonders.”

Mouse and Corin both sent him a doubtful look. “What’s wrong with string?” Corin asked.

Dhori shrugged. “I thought we were taking to the wild with next to nothing, thanks to the plague and the fires and all. Not a lot of string in the woods.”

“We can use vines or something.” Corin dismissed his point with a wave.

Mhysra bit her lip and tried not to laugh as Dhori and Derrain traded exasperated glances. “I don’t think you’ll find many vines in the northern forests, Corin,” she told her friend.

While Corin shrugged over this unimportant detail, Mouse started bouncing again. “Oh, oh! We’ll make sure we flee to the southern forests then. It’s warmer down there. More animals to each too – and loads of vines!”

“And snakes and venomous spiders and as many things trying to eat you as you’re trying to eat. Not to mention the constant rain, the near unbearable heat, the flies and where even the plants want to take a bite out of you.” Derrain sounded almost cheery about it all.

“Sounds great!” Mouse remained unsquashable. “When do we leave?”

“Leave? For where? We’ve only just arrived.”

Mhysra wasn’t the only one to jump at the sound of Stirla’s voice. She and her friends had been so caught up in their conversation, none of them had realised they’d reached their destination.

Chuckling, their lieutenant led the way into a familiar, wide open room, with sand on the floor and the distant thump-thump-thump of the waterwheel in the workshop. The practise barn? Mhysra wasn’t the only one left frowning as she stepped inside and looked around, half expecting Master Gedanon to appear at any moment, wielding a practise sword and taking a swipe at each of them with it.

Yet as they filed inside and formed a loose circle around their lieutenant, no grumpy Ihran appeared to grumble at them. Nor did Master Derneon show up to smile and poke fun at his fellow instructor’s grouchy ways.

Stirla scuffed his feet on the sandy floor and looked around at their frowning faces. Then he smiled. “Usually I’d take you outside for this, but, well…” He indicated the nearest window, which looked out over the Lawn. The world beyond was grey and sodden and the wind was a near-constant whine around the citadel’s walls that Mhysra had learnt to mostly block out.

It was Gale Month and the weather was doing its absolute best to live up to expectations.

“Some might suggest that I wait until things clear up enough for us to continue this lesson outside,” Stirla went on. “But this is one of the most important skills I can teach you, and who knows, tomorrow the Gods might take it upon Themselves to throw another curse or catastrophe our way that’ll make the Cloud Sea look like a mild mist on a winter morn.” He paused to let them take in his newest scenario, making most of them chuckle, while Dhori simply shook his head. “So no time like the present.”

Clapping his hands and rubbing them together, as eager as a little boy at Midwinter, Stirla grinned at his curious class. “Let’s make fire.”

|| Part Two ||

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Free Fiction, Overworld, Writing

Mountain Blossom: Part 3


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

|| Part One || Part Two ||

In which Milli gains a little company. Warning: contains flirting.

SHE MUST HAVE fallen asleep, because a sharp yap made her jump just as a shadow passed over her face. Her head swam as she sat up too swiftly, telling Bumble to be quiet as the nakhound barked. A cool breeze swept over her and she looked up.

A miryhl.

Big, brown, impressive. There was a band of black around the eagle’s neck and two parallel stripes beneath each eye. Despite her upbringing, Milluqua wasn’t ashamed to admit that all miryhls looked alike to her. With two exceptions.

Her sister’s Wingborn, Cumulo. Big, brash, cocky and beloved.

And this one: Atyrn, bonded miryhl of Lieutenant Stirla.

The man himself dismounted and secured his reins so that they didn’t hang around the miryhl’s neck. He murmured something to his eagle before turning to face Milluqua, eyes bright and mischievous.

“The mountain meadows bloom early in Nimbys, I see.” Planting his hands on the rock beside her, he hauled himself up and took her hand, planting a kiss on the back of her glove.

She felt it down to her bones.

“Dodging your duties, Lieutenant?” she teased, looking at his smiling face and wondering how he could seem so fresh and awake when she knew he’d been up before dawn.

Stretching his long legs out alongside hers, he leant back on his hands and chuckled. “How long have you been sleeping up here, pretty flower, dozing in the sun? Ah, to be born to a life of such privilege.”

Though he meant it in jest, Milluqua had to look away, pulling at her violet skirts to neaten them. “I did not realise how much time had passed,” she admitted quietly, feeling ashamed of her idleness.

“I was finishing my patrol,” he explained, smoothing over the moment, “and as Atyrn skimmed over the ridge, what should I spy in the meadow below but the prettiest mountain blossom I ever did see.”

Keeping from rolling her eyes, barely, Milluqua turned back to him. “If you say one word about plucking, I shall be forced to hit you.”

The corner of his mouth curled up in a rueful smile. “Bit much, was it?”

The prettiest mountain blossom I ever did see,” she mimicked in a winsome voice, and he winced.

“You wound me, my lady, how you wound. Here I sit, a poor, lack-witted lieutenant, feeble brain scrambled by your beauty and you mock my words. You mock me. How cruel you are.” He rested a hand over his heart and looked woeful. “Especially,” he continued, pulling something from behind his back, “when I was telling the truth.”

He held out a bunch of mountain bells, each delicate, pale lilac flower smaller than his fingertip. Woven between them were sprays of white cloudlets, tiny cluster-blooms also known as morning kisses.

“How vain my lady is,” Stirla teased, as she took them silently, gazing at the sweetest bouquet she’d ever been given. “As if I would be so clumsy as to call you a mountain blossom. Though, since you mentioned it, I wouldn’t say no to a quick pluck -”

She hit him. What else was a girl of good breeding to do?

“Mind the flowers!” he cried, flinching unnecessarily, since he was so big that a swat from her would be like a fly bouncing off a miryhl’s beak. “It took me ages to gather those.”

Thumping him again, just because she could, Milluqua turned back to admiring her gift. They were unharmed, since she’d used her other hand to assault him, and they smelled fresh and sweet, like the high mountains.

“They’re lovely,” she said, for want of anything better. Stirla always had this effect on her brain. She should avoid him really. Except that he was quite handsome, in a roguish way, especially with that scar on his cheek. And he flirted delightfully.

“Mm, I thought so too,” he murmured, peering over her shoulder. Somehow she didn’t think he meant the flowers, though a glance down reassured her that she was still buttoned up and decent.

“You, sir, are a scoundrel.”

“And you, my lady, wouldn’t have me any other way.”

They smiled at each other. She did so love the way he said my lady, with the faintest hint of possessiveness. As if she was his lady in truth.

Reaching out, he balanced a tiny cloudlet on a callused fingertip. “They look like little stars,” he said softly, his breath teasing her cheek. “Delicate, perfumed. All that’s perfect about the night, brought out to dance beneath the sun.”

Knowing she should move away, that she should stop this, that it was improper to be alone together, sitting so close, meeting in secret, Milluqua closed her eyes and held still. One of his arms was behind her back, the other reaching around her to touch the flowers. His leg was close but not quite touching hers. He was so much taller and broader than she – he made her feel small and surrounded, but protected and safe. It made her chest hurt the way he treated her, like she was something precious. A gift. So much more than the daughter of an earl or a hefty dowry. He made her laugh, and when he wasn’t doing that it was because she was breathless.

Like now.

“Where I come from they’re known as cloudlets. Do you call them that in Nimbys?” His hand moved from the flowers to the patch of skin bared between her glove and the sleeve of her gown. He brushed his thumb over her pulse, once, twice.

She swallowed and nodded, her cheek brushing his.

He teased her heated skin with the whisper of his lips as he moved his mouth to her ear. “But they have another name,” he murmured. “Do you know it?”

She nodded as he breathed against her skin.

“Tell me.”

“Morning kisses,” she said, surprised at her languid, dreamy tone. She’d never sounded like that before. Her eyes fluttered open as he touched her chin, turning her face towards his. He studied her intently with his dark eyes, and for once there was no smile on his lips.

It was she who smiled, her eyes falling shut, drunk on the nearness of him. “We call them morning kisses.”

A puff of air ghosted across her mouth as he chuckled. Then her heart stopped beating, waiting for him to move closer…



A thump in the back shoved her forwards, banging her nose against the solid wall of his chest, while that firm jaw she had so often admired whacked her on the forehead.

“Heirayk’s balls… of fire,” Stirla cursed, one hand clamping her head to his chest, while the other rubbed his jaw. “Damn dog!”

Utterly unconcerned by his anger, Bumble used Milluqua’s back as a convenient step from which to lick Stirla’s face.

Milluqua giggled. It was all so undignified. She was half-turned towards him, her legs tangled in her skirt, cap askew, face crushed against his chest, with a nakhound balancing on her shoulders. While he was still trying to hold the offending pup off.

“Stupid mutt, get off, get off!” Obviously trying not to swear, Stirla shoved the dog away with one arm and finally succeeded in shifting her. Only then did he let Milluqua go.

She stared up at him, biting her lip, knowing she must look a complete fright. Stirla looked dishevelled too, but he was as unfairly gorgeous as ever. She’d never noticed how perfectly thick and long his eyelashes were until he kept his gaze down, refusing the look at her.

“Sorry,” he apologised gruffly, trying to straighten her cap. He poked a few escaped tendrils back underneath, but Milluqua could have told him it was hopeless.

The reason she didn’t was because she was trying not to laugh. He looked so mortified, but really, she found the whole thing ridiculous. And typical. And probably for the best.

She liked him. Too much. He was everything she’d ever wanted. Yet nothing her father would permit her to marry. Not high born enough, not rich enough, not even a captain in the Riders yet. He had no political ambitions and wasn’t even in trade to better his fortune. The thought was enough to strangle her giggles.

“There,” he muttered, tucking the last of her curls away. “It… umm… doesn’t look as it did, but… well… better, anyway.”

For two pins she would have pulled the cap off and redone it herself, but she couldn’t let her hair down in front of him. Unmarried ladies didn’t do such things. Especially not in front of men they had no business encouraging. It was enough to make a woman tearful.

“Here.” He handed her the bunch of flowers, now sadly squashed and broken. She still thought them more beautiful than the most expensive bouquet she’d ever been given.

“Forgive me,” he muttered. “I trust you are not hurt.”

Staring at the flowers, she shook her head and tried to straighten a crumpled mountain bell. “I’m well.”

“Good,” he sighed, paused, then sighed again. “Good.” Running a hand through his hair, he slid off the rock and headed towards Atyrn. “I’d best go. I apologise for any offence caused, Lady Milluqua.”

She raised her head and realised that he was walking away. He was leaving. After everything. He was going. Just like that. He couldn’t go. She wouldn’t let him.

“Wait!” Floundering against her tangled skirts, and cursing herself for choosing this particular garment with its stupid inserts on today of all days. “Stirla, wait!”

The more she struggled, the more entangled she became, especially as she only had one hand, the other refusing to drop her flowers. “Please!”

A warm hand encircled her ankle and she fell still. “Steady,” he soothed. “It’s all right. Let me.”

He stood in front of her, and in this position, with her on the boulder and he carefully straightening her skirts, taking excessive pains not to touch her more than necessary, they were almost the same height. Actually, if she wanted to be accurate, she was slightly taller than him.

How lovely.

He was being so careful with her, not looking up, expression grim, hands trembling. Part of her wanted to weep because this was her fault. She shouldn’t have encouraged him. Neither of them were stupid; they knew nothing could come of this…

She sat up straight and suddenly felt like smiling. “I shouldn’t have encouraged you,” she said, while he tugged her skirts to make sure the last of her entanglement had been removed.

“I came looking for you, my lady. As always, your behaviour was faultless…”

She ignored him. He was a man and he was being silly. “Neither of us are stupid.”

“… It is I who is to blame. I took advantage of your kindness, I…”

“We both know the ways of the world and we know nothing could ever come of this.”

“… shouldn’t have. I apologise. Please, forgive me, Lady Milluqua. You can’t know how much I honour and esteem you. I hope my actions have not ruined our friendship, for I value it more than anything -”

Since he wasn’t listening, she covered his mouth with her hand. When he finally looked at her, surprised, she smiled. “I value it too. Very much.”

And she kissed him to prove it.

Because she was a woman, and though she could be silly too, she also knew a good thing when it stood in front of her. She might not be able to have him for long, and he might not be able to keep her, but here, in this moment, on this rock, which made them both equal for the first time, anything could happen. Anything was possible. And if the daughter of an earl wanted to kiss a farmer’s son turned captain-in-training, well, no one was here to see.

Except for a dignified miryhl and a brainless puppy.

The latter of which joined in the fun by thumping Milluqua in the back again and shoving her off the rock.

Straight into Stirla’s arms. Which was where she wanted to be anyway, so instead of scolding Bumble she saved her breath. She had a better use for it.

Eventually, when she finally let Stirla go, deciding to rest her head against his chest again, she had the delight of feeling his chuckle rumble against her cheek.

“Well, well,” he murmured, nuzzling her loose curls, since her cap had been completely dislodged this time. “My little mountain blossom decided to -”

There was a light slap and a stifled laugh as she put her hand swiftly over his mouth.

“Don’t make me hit you again.”

His lips curled under her palm and, still holding her with one arm, he peeled her fingers away with the other hand. “You need to find a better way of stopping my mouth.”

Hauling herself up higher against his chest, she draped her arms over his broad shoulders and raised her eyebrows. “Do I indeed? I hope you have some suggestions.”

Threading his fingers through her curls, he pulled her closer and smiled against her lips. “Indeed I do. A recent discovery this, but I think you’ll find it effective.”

Unsurprisingly, she did.

Thanks for reading!

Free Fiction, Overworld, Writing

Mountain Blossom: 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.

|| Part One ||

Milli and Bumble make the most of the fine spring morning.


THE DAY WAS beautifully fair, and Milluqua thought there might even have been a hint of summer in the air. From the heights of the noble district, she looked down over Nimbys, with its honey-gold buildings and hidden shadows. Contrasted with the granite grey and bronze of the mountainside, only just sprouting with the first hints of green, Nimbys shone like a jewel. And beyond, the world was all white and blue. The Cloud Sea was luminous today and it hurt her tired eyes to look at it.

Determined only to think of pleasant, wide awake things, Milluqua turned away from the city and headed deeper up the valley. Bumble strained at the lead, eager to go wherever they were going, as long as they went fast. Faster. Or over there. No, here. Here. Wait! Smells! It was a jerky, halting walk as Milluqua passed the dozing mansions of the rich and the noble, until they finally stepped away from the cobbles and onto the dirt path leading to the high meadows.

Once she reached the narrow woodland, filled with oak and birches designed to prevent the pastureland beyond from offending the eyes of the nobles, Milluqua untied Bumble’s lead and let her loose. Yipping with glee, the pup galloped off, nose to the ground, searching for squirrels and voles. Despite her pristine appearance, there was nothing more attractive to Bumble than mud. Milluqua had lost count of the times she’d scolded the pup for wallowing in puddles or rolling in fox sprays.

Even with the constant distraction of the pup – rooting through the undergrowth, growling at nettle patches, chasing squirrels up trees, eating doelyn droppings – Milluqua took time to enjoy the beauty of the woods. Buds sprinkled the oak branches, while catkins already draped the birches and showered the air with yellow pollen. Insects buzzed in the undergrowth and birds whistled in the trees. She glimpsed a nuthatch and had the pleasure of seeing it hop down a tree right in front of her.

Perfectly content with her lot, Milluqua called Bumble to heel as they reached the edge of the trees. Surprisingly obedient for so boisterous a pup, the nakhound trotted up, wafting her smell before her.

“Urgh, it’ll be the mews and a bath for you, my girl, before you come anywhere near my room again.”

Please with herself, Bumble huffed, her pink and black tongue bobbing as she panted.

“Glad we understand one another.” Smiling despite herself, Milluqua walked out of the shadowy wood into the bright sunshine. The gentle slope of the pastures rolled out in front of her, dotted here and there with horsats and doelyn, placidly grazing with only the occasional flick of a tail revealing any possible discontent.

Bumble lifted her head and pricked her ears at the nearest horsat, but a murmured “leave” was enough to keep her at Milluqua’s heels. Which was a relief, since it would be undignified to run headlong through the pastures, hollering at the top of her voice. It had happened once or twice, but since Bumble had attempted to nip a bullwing and earned a hoof in the ribs for her trouble, she’d lost her taste for chasing big animals. Squirrels, rabbits and voles were more her kind of thing these days.

As Milluqua and Bumble hiked up the increasing slope, she waved at a young messenger fetching in his horsat, looking exceedingly smart in his uniform.

“Morning, milady.”

She smiled back. “Going far?”

“Off to Tipfirth,” he replied, grinning at the chance to fly over a thousand leagues to the end of Imercian. She hoped his message was worth it.

“Fast winds and clear skies,” she wished him, but the boy had already caught his mount and was returning to the stables, eager to be away. She watched him go, wondering just what the appeal of flying was. Not even in her childhood at Wrentheria, the greatest feather-winged breeders in the Overworld, had she understood why so many people risked so much to become airborne.

“Give me solid ground any day of the moon,” she told Bumble, who, unsurprisingly, wasn’t listening.

A horsat snorted nearby, the source of Bumble’s distraction. It cropped another mouthful of grass, then raised its head, staring at Milluqua and the dog. One of its big, bat-like ears pointed towards them, while the other swivelled warily behind. It twitched, leathery wings half-opening before resettling on its back. It was a sweet looking chestnut, but Milluqua didn’t like the way it watched Bumble, so she patted her thigh for the dog’s attention and hurried along.

At the top of the field, a second pasture flattened out. Not so big as the first, but not so awkward either, even if it was littered with rocks. Here was the bullwing herds spent each night before being taken to work at the docks or in the quarries during the day. Big, muscular and stupid, the females were docile and easily led, but the males could be a handful. Especially the bulls. Pausing at the fence, Milluqua scanned the grassland. Seeing only females and calves grazing, she opened the gate and carried on.

Her ultimate goal was the scrubland above the pastures, where the grass was fit only for sheep and goats. The ground was covered with rough grass punctuated by tenacious thorn trees and gorse clumps, the perfect playground for young rabbits to scamper about. It was Bumble’s favourite place to visit, and though it took some effort to reach, once they arrived Milluqua need do nothing more than sit back and watch while the pup wore herself out.

There was nothing in sight when Milluqua climbed a small slope to her favourite rock, but Bumble yipped and ran off anyway, soon sending rabbits fleeing down the mountainside. A shower of pebbles and dust rattled in the nakhound’s wake, but otherwise the spot was peaceful, undisturbed and beautiful.

Milluqua took off her pelisse, spread it over a nice, flat boulder and lay on her back, staring up at the sky. Wispy cirrus clouds were all there was to be seen and she folded her hands across her midriff as she watched them drift slowly apart, fading into nothingness under the warm sun.

|| Part Three ||

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