Winds and Wings

At last, home was in sight.

Well, maybe not his own actual home. He was from the coast, and once his discharge was processed, to the coast he’d return for the rest of his aborted training. But it was his homeland, there past the river and the line of border forts straddling it, torches on their roofs gleaming like brilliant jewels in Hakenteri’s keen sight.


Hakenteri had used every curse word he knew in four different languages and was starting over. It took a while – partly because the gryphon was cursing under his breath as he flew, rather than with full dedication, but mostly because one didn’t spend five years in active service with the Highmoor Legions, and more time beyond that in training, without picking up some of the essential skills.

False leads, inaccuracies, late arrivals, missing details – nobody had ever told him that serving as the Legion’s eyes and ears in other lands would be easy, but this was getting downright ridiculous.

The place he’d left behind with the first of those muttered curses was the eighth he’d investigated since starting this particular mission. It was supposed to have been as straightforward as a spy-courier’s duties ever got – get in, meet the contact, hear the report, confirm it, get home. And that would have been that; the five years he’d sworn to serve would be done and he could move on to civilian life. Which, unlike most of his kind, he had serious prospects for; he’d had no intention of re-enlisting.

That had been at the start of spring. It was the height of summer, now.

Hakenteri didn’t begrudge the extra time – truly. It would have been nice to be done months ago as expected, but he’d had no intention of leaving a task unfinished. The real problem was that this particular task seemed tailored for maximum frustration.


Hakenteri drifted on the edge of an uneasy doze, awash in a dull ache of pain.

He’d have been happy never to know how much of an improvement that could be. But improvement it was over how he’d been, what felt like mere moments ago but in truth was much of a day. When he’d been brought into this little den, he’d been exhausted, half-starved, and in genuine agony – from first the burns, then the arrow through his right wing, then all too many broken bones and a host of lesser bruises from when he’d hit the ground.

That had been bad. He’d barely been aware of anything but the pain, hadn’t known that healers were at hand until the pain had faded into merciful oblivion; at that point, he’d succumbed to his fatigue and sunk into oblivion as well.