Feather Frost, Etheria, the Greater West
32nd Cold, 784 Cloud Era
There was no blood.
A hint of smoke lingered in the air, more imagined than real, and charcoal crunched beneath Lyrai's boots as he entered the remains of the base. Mist twisted and crept across the ground, drifting on gentle breezes that were so at odds with the season. A blanket of snow had fallen overnight, but the damage was too great to be hidden.
Feather Frost was dead.
Once it had been the pride of Etheria; a defensive bastion that protected trade and lives right in the shadow of the Worlds End mountains. From a humble military camp to an impressive citadel, it had been home to over five hundred Rift Riders, half of the Greater West's entire force. Feather Frost was both the heart and the front line of the war against the kaz-naghkt.
Nothing remained, neither feather nor bone. All was ashes. The ground was snow-locked, the buildings burnt, the reek of death long faded away.There was no blood. How could almost seven hundred men - the barrack staff, attendants, Riders and all their miryhl eagle mounts - simply vanish? No one had escaped. This attack could have been as much as a month old, leaving plenty of time for survivors to have reached safety and sent out word. It was only due to a returning circuit messenger that anyone had discovered the attack at all.
"How could this happen?" Stirla joined Lyrai on the take-off platform, which commanded a complete overview of the destruction.
Unable to speak, Lyrai shook his head. Flying sweeps with their captain out of Kaskad they had been the closest Riders when the news broke. Not that anything in the hysterical messenger's report had prepared them for this. Nothing could have prepared them for this.
"Lieutenant Stirla, take your flurry down and see if there's anything to salvage." Captain Myran emerged from the mists, limping up the slope. "Fleik's waiting for you. Lieutenant Lyrai, divide your Riders. Send half with Stirla, the rest remain with you. Find shelter and get a fire going. We're going to need it."
Both men saluted, and Stirla and his Riders were soon picking their way across the frozen remains. Numb from both cold and shock, Lyrai watched them go, his captain by his side. The wind picked up, scattering snow over their boots.
Freshly graduated from Aquila, the silver stitching still bright on his stripes, Lyrai wasn't sure that there were any words for this, except: "There's no blood."
Myran rested a hand on his youngest lieutenant's shoulder. "Shelter, Lyrai. Fire and food. There's plenty in life that we can't change, so let's focus on the small things we can. Look to your men, lieutenant." With a nod of dismissal, he called for his miryhl and Lieutenant Imaino's flurry.
Left alone, Lyrai watched his fellow Riders searching through the wreckage, while others took to the skies. A fierce wind howled over the ridge, wiping the platform momentarily clean.
Blood. Mostly hidden by the scorched wood and stone beneath but there nonetheless. Hunkering down, Lyrai chipped at the ice with his knife and at last found evidence of struggle and slaughter.
He rested his palm over the stain. "Be at peace in the halls of Typhaestus, brothers. Rest well. We shall avenge you."
Shivering beneath a fresh gust of wind, he straightened up and called for his Riders. It was time to seek shelter beneath an ever-darkening sky.
Overhead, it began to snow.
YOU ARE READING
(COMPLETE) Lady Mhysra Kilpapan was blessed from birth with a distinguished family, a glorious home and a giant eagle miryhl of her own. Fully aware of her luck, she wants for nothing in life - except a chance to become a Rift Rider. The elite force...