Chapter 8: The Queen “Come on, Tlali! Get up!” Ari was leaning over Tlali and shaking her shoulders to get her to wake up. Tlali had come home very late that night, for her flight with Rain lasted longer than planned. “Huh? Huh? I’m up!” Tlali shoved Ari away. “What is it?” “Jade stopped by and said the Queen wanted to see the wild Kihlari today! Right now! Let’s go!” Ari pulled on her leather leggings and her wool vest. Tlali threw off her blanket and pulled on her clothing. “Come on, come on!” Ari climbed down the ladder, with Tlali following. Their mother was stepping out the door when she saw them. “You better go quick,” she said, and looked up. In the distance, Queen Azar could be seen, riding her winged stallion, Flame. Ari grabbed a slice of honeycomb and together, Tlali and Ari raced out the door. “I’ll be heading towards the trading post,” Eirwen, their mother, called. Almost every day, Eirwen would ride to the trading post aboard Reva, the family’s land horse, to sell all sorts of goods. “Bye, mum!” Tlali called. Ari turned around for one split second, waved, then raced forward. Soon they reached the Kihlari barn, and just in time too, for Flame had just landed. “Headwind Summerhall, I would like to see the new Kihlari,” Azar raised an eyebrow. Ari gave a curt nod, then turned to Tlali. “Bring the fillies,” she whispered. Tlali nodded and slipped into the barn. Riders were already there, feeding their Fliers or rummaging through trunks. “Ay, mornin’ Tlali,” someone said. It was one of Jade’s sisters, Anne. “Ay,” Tlali said. “Your mum is here. She wants to see the new fillies.” Tlali grabbed a halter and strapped it around Luna’s head. Anne nodded. “Jade will help you with the other one,” Anne said. “Jade!” Jade stepped out from behind a trunk. “Is mum here?” Anne nodded. Jade grabbed a different halter for Winter. “Let’s go,” she said. Winter reared and tossed her head, trying to get rid of the halter. “Winter,” Jade hissed, and pulled. Luna whinnied and stomped her hoof. “Ay, steady, girl,” Tlali gently put her hand on Luna’s chest. Luna calmed and poked Winter with her nose, nickering. Winter swished her tail. Tlali grinned. “Come on,” she said. Tlali and Jade walked out of the barn with the fillies. They stopped in front of the Queen. Queen Azar gasped, which she should have. The fillies were beautiful, especially in the light of morning. Winter had her ears pinned and eyes narrowed, with her wings held high, and her bright blue feathers glimmered. Luna’s neck was arched as she pawed the soil, and her wavy black mane fluttered. Her wings, on the other hand, were a sorry sight. “What’s wrong with the filly’s wings?” Azar asked, glaring at her drooping, dusty, bloody wings. The beautiful feathers were bent. The Queen put her hand on her red stallion. Tlali spoke up, “My Queen, Luna will grow into her wings. I suppose she was born like that, with her wings and legs oversized.” Queen Azar lifted her chin. “Why is she black? We have never had a black Kihlari before.” Ari shrugged, but before she could say anything, Jade spoke up, “We don’t know, Mother.” Queen Azar huffed. “If what you say is true, Tlali Summerhall, that the filly will grow into her wings, then I want to make sure she can actually fly, before the Auction. I can’t sell a Kihlari who can’t fly.” With that she hopped on her stallion, and they flew away. “What do we do?” Tlali asked Ari, watching the Queen fly away. “It’s not like we can magically make Luna grow into her wings!” Ari couldn’t answer, for now Winter was neighing. Skyfall bucked and reared, trying to get rid of the halter. She flapped her wings and whinnied. “What are you doing?!” Stormsong whinnied. “Trying to escape!” she shouted, but now Ari was helping Jade pull on her halter, and they were leading her to the barn.