Free Fiction, Overworld, Patreon, Updates

Wednesday Round Up

I feel like I’ve been busier than usual of late, so here’s a quick link post to recap it all.

First, Cloud Cursed is out! And still at its low introductory price of 0.99 (or the lowest equivalent I could list it at). Grab it while it’s cheap.

Or sign up to my Patreon before this Friday and get it for free!

Speaking of Patreon, if you take a look over there right now you’ll find a couple of posts unlocked for everyone to read:

There are also plenty of posts that are locked for only my Patrons to see.

And that’s it for the moment. I’m currently taking a few days off to reset my brain before diving into Storm Wings edits, but I did read through Wingborn #6 the other day and found it less awful than I thought, which was nice. I’m also getting a much clearer idea of how the Dragonlands series is going to turn out and a few more Goryal Adventure ideas.

Here’s hoping your own September is working out as well.

Take care, my lovelies.

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 ||

Thanks for reading.

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 ||

Thanks for reading!

Free Fiction, Overworld, Writing

Mountain Blossom: 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.

To while away the wait before Book 3, I thought I’d share a tale or two featuring less well known characters in the Overworld. This three part short story takes place during Wingborn, when Mhysra and co are still in Nimbys at the Selection School, preparing for life in the Riders.

It’s a day-in-the-life look at what Milluqua and Bumble get up to while Mhysra’s at school. There’s also a hint of romance, but you’ll have to wait until later for that to turn up.

For now, Lady Milluqua is attempting to mind her own business while a very lively puppy demands attention at foolish o’clock.

Mountain Blossom

23rd Thaw, 785 CE

THERE COULD BE no surer sign of sisterly affection than to sacrifice one’s sleep to promote the interests of a younger sibling. Or so Lady Milluqua Kilpapan believed one fine spring morning as a cold nose burrowed under the covers at the bottom of her bed. It slithered across her toes, making them clench, before a warm, slimy tongue licked her heel.

Bumble!” Milluqua shrieked, dragging her knees up to her chest and pulling her feet out of reach.

This, of course, was the best game ever invented – in Bumble’s opinion – and the dog dived under the blankets to give chase.

After much tussling, growling, yips and yelps – and that was just Milluqua – the pup was finally ejected from the bed, the blankets were straightened and the majority of the pillow feathers were brushed onto the floor. Sprawled across her disrupted bed, Milluqua stared at the ceiling, while the nakhound pup clambered back up to lie by her side.

“The things I do for my sister,” Milluqua grumbled, and tilted her head towards the dog.

A remnant of old hunting breeds from the days before the Cloud Curse fell, nakhounds were long-legged, far-sighted, slender beasts. The kind that once might have hunted deer or wolves, who could lollop through snow or briars without feeling a thing. Intelligent, in their way, and quick to train, they were a credit to centuries of human tampering.

Added to all this was a hint of dragon work, which accounted for the fluffy wings. Nakhounds were the last gift the dragons had given to humans before they hid themselves behind the roiling barriers of the Stormsurge and Stormwash. Just like their long-lost ancestors, nakhounds were designed with one prey in mind: the kaz-naghkt. And, as with all dragongifts, what one saw in a nakhound was not always what one got.

Rolling onto her side, Milluqua tickled Bumble’s silky white belly, tracing the black stripes that covered her lower ribs. She was a pretty thing, from her black-barred wings to the pink spots on her nose. Her face was covered in a black mask that spread to her ears, broken by a finger-width of white that started in the centre of her forehead and gradually widened as it swept back over her head and flowed down her neck. Still only a pup, her wings were more fluff than feathers, but it wouldn’t be long before she could fly.

Thoroughly enjoying the attention, Bumble wriggled onto her back, wagged her fringed tail and waved a white paw. Milluqua rolled her eyes and shook it. “You are shameless.”

Bumble sneezed and rolled to her side.

“Good idea,” Milluqua agreed, and shoved the dog off the bed. In the past she might have made the mistake of trying to go back to sleep. However, after four months of this routine, she’d learned not to bother. The moment she put her head down, Bumble would pounce and lick her nose. If that didn’t achieve the desired result – namely, an eager playmate – she would lie on Milluqua’s chest and rest her cold nose under her chin. And stay there. In fact, once settled, she was impossible to move.

Not keen on being flattened that morning, Milluqua got out of bed in a shower of pillow feathers and headed for her dressing room. Once upon a time, she never rose before midday. A society favourite, Lady Milluqua Kilpapan was on the guest list of every family of note and there was rarely an evening that she spent at home. It was not uncommon for her to dance long into the night and return home early the next morning. Many a summer sunrise had been viewed before she had even been to bed.

Not that much had changed on that side of things, but thanks to Bumble she could no longer sleep the day away. Instead she had to get up and go out.

It wasn’t that Bumble was a demanding or fussy dog – she never minded the destination, for example – she was just a puppy and puppies liked to play. Since Kilpapan House was a grand place, full of precious items precariously placed on tables and stands, Milluqua had quickly learnt that playing was much kinder on the nerves – and the purse – if one did it outside.

Using the bowl of warm water in her dressing room, placed there by the servants the moment Mhysra left for the selection school each morning, Milluqua tried to convince herself she was in fact awake. It was a trick she had been attempting to perfect for months, but as yet hadn’t quite mastered.

Before she even had time to ring the bell, her maid arrived. “Morning, my lady,” Jayli greeted, bobbing a curtsey on her way to the wardrobe. “Where will you be walking today?”

Peering at her reflection, Milluqua prodded the unsightly bags beneath her eyes and covered them with a cool cloth. “I’ve not yet decided. Nowhere too busy. My head still rings from the Hemington’s last night. They had the worst quartet I’ve ever had the misfortune to encounter.”

Jayli chuckled from the depths of the wardrobe. “I heard that her ladyship always wanted her daughters to play well. Claimed it would save on expenses at balls.”

“Shame none of them can play worth a pin,” Milluqua sighed, taking the cloth from her eyes and wrinkling her nose at the mirror. “And it is a shame, for they’re good girls, though the youngest is still so very young. Eleven, I believe.” She shook her head at the pale fawn walking costume Jayli was holding up. “Poor girls, to be exposed to such experiences and ridicule. Their mother does them no favours. Nothing too pale, Jayli. The sun may be shining, but it’s still spring and you know what Bumble is like.”

Sighing with disappointment, Jayli put away the light green muslin with the white silk ribbons and didn’t even bother to offer up the buttercup yellow. Once the maid had spent the entire morning picking out her mistress’ clothes for the day, making her the most beautiful woman in the city. Then, while Milluqua paid the requisite calls, or received her own flood of visitors, Jayli would press gowns and prepare a selection for the evening ahead. Now Milluqua picked out whichever dress was most practical, most comfortable or best at hiding stains and left without a second thought. It was then up to the maid to repair rents and snags, remove mud, dust and sleet, and sigh over the beautiful gowns that had been ignored.

Milluqua saw all of this as her maid pulled out a deep violet walking dress that had long been one of her favourites. Jayli thought it dull, but the insets around the overfull skirt were lined with indigo, which flashed when she walked. It was also perfectly comfortable, not to mention two years out of date, making it perfect for taking Bumble outside. Over the top she pulled her oldest, most serviceable brown pelisse and added a lovely brown cap to hold back her hair. All that remained were her matching violet-dyed doelyn leather gloves and she was ready.

Jayli sighed unhappily as her mistress called for Bumble and attached her lead to her collar.

Shaking her head, Milluqua smiled at her maid. “Just a few months more, Jayli, then all shall be as it once was. My new gowns from Beaulei should arrive today and I should like to wear the silver tonight, if you would be so good.”

Cheered up by the prospect of new clothes to care for, Jayli bobbed a merry curtsey. “Of course, my lady. Enjoy your walk.”

“I shall try,” Milluqua replied wryly, with more hope than expectation, and left.

|| Part Two ||

Thanks for reading!

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!

Free Fiction, Writing

A Royal Welcome


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 five years before Wingborn, when Stirla is eighteen and Lyrai is not quite sixteen. Both are freshly arrived at Aquila and about to encounter each other for the very first time…

(Thanks to EF for the suggestion. I never would have thought of this one on my own.)

Word Count: 3,500 words. Continue reading “A Royal Welcome”

Free Fiction, Overworld, Updates

Overworld Extras

overworld-tales-2Things on Wattpad are going quite well where my Wingborn/Overworld tales are concerned, so to celebrate it, I thought I’d add a few short stories and deleted scenes around the place. On Wednesdays, since I’ve stopped the extra chapter updates.

I needed to make up this cover for Wattpad, but I’ll probably also make an ebook out of it one day when I have enough stuff to pad it out.

For now, I have a handful of short stories and a scattering of deleted scenes and alternative chapters. I’ll be starting with Wingborn related things, but I’ll probably move on to Rift at some point.

In the meantime, any requests? So far I have first meetings of Cue and Hurricane, Lyrai and Stirla, plus a Stirla survival lesson and a longer story about Stirla and Milli, but is there anything else people would like to see? First flights? When Stirla met Atyrn? Derry making the decision to join the Riders? Kilai’s first day at Aquila? Mucking about at Wrentheria? Downtime at Aquila? Something with Myran or Hylan or the dean? Maybe more Corin, Mouse or the other students?

I’m open to any and all suggestions. I can’t promise I’ll be able to actual write them, but I will definitely give it a go.

In the meantime, I shall go kick things off with when Stirla met Lyrai…

Merry Wednesday, everyone!