Interlude II: Confess

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The drake felt death breathing down his neck.  He laughed.
“I cannot imagine killing me will end well for you⁠ ⁠—⁠ or accomplish your goals, for that matter,” he said, peering down at nothing.  He smelt the holly.
“One day I’ll find the will, you know.”
“What has it been?  Ten, fifteen gyras?”  He fluttered his tongue.  “I don’t glimpse you doing this out of any lingering hate.”
Something sharp slid into a sheath.  “I still don’t like you.”
A smile she couldn’t see.  “Understandable.  But as long as you do this, I can’t help but still see the knee high little moltling who couldn’t hold a knife steady, or even pronounce ‘kill’ correctly.”  Quietly, he knew she wouldn’t do it, knew she wasn’t like him.  Not Mlaen’s little flower.
She said, “I’ve come a long way.”
“You have.  And some things never change.”

Rousing X: Harrow

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Clouds drew in asudden and hid the suns, bearing down on the world.  The ninth long ring came to a close like it was seeking us out in the cliffs, faintly.
Out here little skinks slithered along the cliff faces, hunting the last glider-scorpions and tentacle-snails before the gray season in full fell.  The calls of the ax-crested pterosaurs filled the air, sounding reedy and warbly.  I saw one swoop down all asudden and fly off with a dust turtle I hadn’t even seen, hiding behind a low fern.
“Poor little turt.”
“Pterosaus have to eat too.”
I looked around.  Past the Berwem gate, all the guards had pulled ashcloaks over themselves, though they maneuvered the red sash onto the outside.  We walked up that same ravine that wound us back into town last night, limned almost adventurous in the sky light.
The pink guard was slinking back beside the dark-green wiver, more subdued, but not so much as when talking under Rhyfel or Adwyn.  “Hey, uh, Hinte, was it?  Everyone called you Gronte-wyre, but I don’t think that was your name.”

Rousing VII: Agnize

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As the knife plummeted, my hope fell with it.  I hung there on the net for a few beats and then Adwyn arrived.
He didn’t glance at me; he unsheathed a short blade.  In a half-dozen quick, precise swipes, he slashed at the netting.  But instead of trying to cut all the way through like me, he resheathed the sword, gripped netting and pulled.
It came right apart, and Adwyn had flown through before my eyes unclouded.  I flapped after him, frills folded, tail coiled.
Glancing behind me, the flock of guards had reached the nets.  But they didn’t all try to squeeze through Adwyn’s hole, they just followed his example, without swords, ripping the net with their claws.
I turned away, looking for the thieves and finding them, after moments of scanning, both flying low over the town.  Nothing much had changed, aside from my falling behind Adwyn — about five or six wingbeats — and thieves now having a crushing lead on us: they were more than thirty wings in front of Adwyn.

Rousing VI: Concede

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“The bodies are gone?” I said with a snap of my tongue. “Where did they go?”
Adwyn was still prodding the tarp in front of us, and still speaking, thinking aloud, “These are sandbags, decoys.”
The orange drake, face hidden behind a dust mask, turned from the cart. When he did, every careless scale had been shed. This Adwyn, I could imagine, was the last thing Raganari had seen before her end. “We have been robbed,” he said.

Sifting VIII: Reglaze

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Would this day ever end?  This entire adventure had passed in one day, in one evening.  Yet, in my mind, in my aching legs, and in my relationship with Hinte, a whole cycle might have passed.  More had happened today than in any other cycle of my life.
Routine dominated my days. Wake up before the second dawn ring, Kinri. Check by the coutiers, maybe your brother finally sent a letter.  Go to moil at the Llygaid Crwydro every day, except (stars, don’t forget!) not on the purportedly-sacred crestdays and troughdays.  Hope Cthwithach-sofran has time to teach you anything, else you’ll have nothing else to show the day wasn’t waste.  Let Uvidet-gyfar drag you out to play cards at the Moyo-Makao every other day.  Check by the courtiers again, you never know.  If you grow bored of things⁠ ⁠—⁠ when you grow bored of things⁠ ⁠—⁠ you can beg the guards at the south gate to let you out, and fly some laps in the pretty red ravines south of town.  Then sneak out at night and look at the endless stars.
All of the excitement and terror of this break from routine had exhausted me…  but it was worth it, to spend some time with Hinte that wasn’t just phatic fumbling.

Sifting VII: Anneal

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Along the roads into Gwymr/Frina the scattered lamp- and sign-posts mixed with bright-colored signs warning of trenches and sudden drops. Little glider-scorpions emerged from the deeper crevices, flitting in the night with the short, sporadic glides that named them.  Often the whirring of bats rose with the calls and buzzes of the scorpions, but when one appeared, the other would grow silent, hiding or hunting.
We passed a few houses dotting the ravine at its widest, where the posts instead fenced off their yards.  Here, netting rose from the fence-posts, and blocked any inward flight.  The nets met big poles rising from the roofs, making the houses like spiderly pyramids.