Quinn rose from his bow and glanced over the stall door at the young mare. “Yes, Your Majesty.”
Queen Shanika rested one hand on the top of the stall door. “She looks odd.”
“Yes, my queen.” Quinn had noticed that. The braya looked as though she had been stocky, but a change in climate had changed her. Her coat had shed from thick to thin.
Shanika narrowed her eyes. “You have claimed this mare for your own?”
He nodded silently. She watched him, then said, “I will give you a deal, Cloudburst. You know our treasury is stretched thin.”
His breath caught. “Yes. The Academy.” The Kihlara Academy, founded by Shanika’s ancestor, Feylah Stormrunner, was taxing the Fifth Clan’s treasury considerably. Less foals had been born that year, and more old Kihlara had died. The Academy had been forced to turn away several prospective Riders, including Quinn himself, as they just didn’t have enough tack or Kihlari.
Shanika sighed. “If you can train this mare in one month, you may join the Academy with her and train to become a Rider. If you cannot, she will be sent to the Ruk.” She closed her eyes. “This is more than fair, Cloudburst. You know how much we need her foals.”
Yes, but she’s wild! It wasn’t fair to trap a Kihlara who was used to the wild, who needed her freedom, in a stall. But Quinn also knew that Shanika could simply take the braya, giving Quinn nothing. So Quinn bowed once again and watched the queen leave.
The mare stood still now, her wings tucked on her back, every muscle tense. She hadn’t noticed yet that her flight feathers had been trimmed the barest of bits. Quinn leaned on the door.
“Hey, girl,” he murmured.
Her ears flicked at his voice, and she backed up against the wall.
“You must’ve come a long way.” The mare stepped forward a pace. Encouraged, Quinn kept his voice low and soothing. “Where did you come from, anyway?” His eyes traced a line down her neck, taking in the caked mud obscuring her silver coat. “You need a name.”
She cocked her head.
“I’ll call you Journey.” He straightened up and she leapt back, hooves clattering where the straw had been pushed aside.
Viru nickered something at her, and she neighed definitely at him. Quinn moved to Viru, reaching out and resting his hand on his forehead.
“You calm her down, boy,” he muttered. “I need to train her. She needs to trust me. Otherwise” — his voice choked — “she’ll go to the Ruk.”
Starpebble watched the cub talk to Viru. His eyes glistened with tears, startling her. Why is he upset?
“What’s he saying?” she whinnied at him. Viru’s eyes were closed in concentration, listening intently to the strange sounds. The cub turned abruptly and ran down the aisle toward the door, disappearing. The pegasi across from Starpebble watched him with interest, muttering to each other.
Viru turned to her, a strange look in his eye.
“I don’t understand the Sandwens very well, but I caught this.” He paused. “If Quinn can’t train you, you’ll go to the Ruk.”
Starpebble shifted, confused. “Quinn? The Ruk?”
Celaeri put in, “Quinn is his name. The Ruk is where broodmares and stallions live.”
Starpebble snorted. “I will not become a broodmare!”
“Then you will have to cooperate with Quinn,” said Viru.
Hey! Thank you so much for reading, and sorry it took so long!
Flintwing~ (over-stallion) dark gray stallion with slate-blue feathers, black mane and tail. Deceased
Cedarwing~ (over-stallion) agile light bay stallion with blue feathers, black mane and tail, thin white blaze
Sprucefeather~ (widowed mare) bay mare with green feathers, black mane and tail
Snowstone~ (under-stallion) white stallion with mint feathers, white mane and tail. Deceased
Stormrain~ (yearling) dark gray filly with dark green feathers, black mane and tail
Hoperiver~ (single/widowed mare) pure white mare with sparkling blue feathers flecked with amber, silky white mane and tail
Stormsun~ (single mare) chestnut mare with turquoise feathers, curly black mane and tail fading to light brown, four white socks, blaze
Rockroot~ (medicine stallion) smoky-gray stallion with deep pink feathers, black mane and tail, white snip on nose
Mistwing~ (over-stallion) white stallion with misty blue and white feathers, silver mane and tail
Ashcloud~ (lead mare) smoky gray mare with smoky purple feathers, black mane and tail, large diamond-shaped star on forehead
Fogfire~ (captain) gray stallion with navy feathers, black mane and tail. Deceased
Moonfrost~ (mated mare) dark silver mare with dark purple feathers, black mane and tail, Deceased
Echoflower~ (single/widowed mare, elder) white mare with pink feathers, white mane and tail
Rainshine~ (yearling) dark silver dapple filly with silver feathers, black mane and tail
Cobrawing~ (over-stallion) bay pinto stallion with green feathers, mixed brown-and-white mane and tail
Dustcloud~ (lead mare) palomino mare with pale green feathers, white mane and tail, wide white blaze
Sunfire~ (captain) gold dun stallion with violet feathers, gold mane and tail, thin white blaze
Starpebble~ (yearling) silver filly with pale blue feathers, white mane and tail, deep blue eyes
Ember~ (black foal, yearling) solid black colt with black feathers, black mane and tail
Spark~ (black foal, yearling) solid black colt with black feathers, black mane and tail, four white socks
Brightsky~ (mated mare) bright palomino mare with mixed blue and purple feathers, white mane and tail
Sunlight~ (single/widowed mare) palomino pinto mare with pink feathers, white mane and tail. Ember and Spark’s dam. Deceased
Summersong~ (yearling) brownish-gold filly with pale pink feathers, light brown mane and tail
Palmroot~ (medicine mare) gold dun mare with amethyst feathers, black mane and tail, black points
Tumbleweed~ (nursing foal) buttermilk buckskin with turquoise feathers, black mane and tail, uneven blaze
Shanika Stormrunner~ Queen of the Fifth, age thirty-three. Tall with long black hair, tan skin, golden eyes. Kihlara mount:
Quinn Cloudburst~ age fourteen. Curly light honey-brown hair, lightly tanned skin, dark brown eyes.
Sami Firetongue~ age thirty-nine. Short crinkly black hair, dark brown skin, amber eyes
Sera~ beautiful dark bay mare with lemon-yellow feathers, black mane and tail, wide white blaze
Ras~ handsome dark bay colt with lemon-yellow feathers, black mane and tail, wide white blaze
Jager~ gray pangare mare with light green feathers at the mantle changing to white at the ends, gray mane and tail
Celaeri~ blue-gray mare with rose feathers, black mane and tail
Viru~ palomino stallion with reddish-orange feathers, flaxen mane and tail