Skade was woken up by something tickling her feet. She growled and sat up, ready to rip some chunks off whoever dared disturb her, but what she saw stole all the words right out of her mouth. Nanye was hanging through her window, shoulders squashed onto the ledge and neck stretching out to its fullest extent as his tongue rasped over her toes. Out of the window, Skade could just see his wings pounding to keep him in the air. She nearly fell off the bed laughing.
"What ... the heck ... are you doing?" she gasped through her hysterics.
"~You've slept through half the day already!~" Nanye said. "~It's not as if I could wake you up any other way, and nobody dares rouse you after you nearly decapitated that poor kitchen boy the other week.~" He dropped his voice. "~Lady Aryanna has already been expressing her distaste about your decision not to try her again.~"
"Blagh," Skade made a face, "That'll be fun to deal with later. What's the betting she'll come to grill me the moment I set foot in the castle? Either that or she'll storm into the meeting and demand an explanation. Urgh, I still have to organise the scouting don't I?"
Nanye dipped his head and retreated out of the window. "~It will have to wait now, you've overslept. Ragta and her new rider will be waiting for us.~"
"If they're still in one piece. Y'reckon Nicker-watsit outlasted the ghosts?"
"~I don't know,~" said Nanye, "~though I suspect it will have been a hard battle. They get nastier every time.~"
Skade shrugged. "I suppose. Anyway, let's go and extricate them shall we? Get your scaly bottom out and rouse the others - I think it's time they met the newest addition to our ranks. If he's still in one piece, that is."
Skade dressed quickly and made her way out of the door. The SoulRiders' barracks lay a little way out of the main castle complex, close to the caves where the dragons spent the night. As she passed by the rooms of her companions, she could hear them muttering and shrieking in alarm as Nanye stuck is head in their windows and scared them awake.
"Get up fellas!" she cried. "We've got a new friend to greet this morning. I want your arses up and fed before I get back, and make sure you're presentable or I'll let Nanye give you a spit bath."
A few muffled replies came through the doors, and Skade couldn't help but smile. She left the barracks and headed for the cave. Nanye dropped down and trotted along beside her. There were no sounds coming from the mouth of the cave, but Nanye snorted uncomfortably as they entered.
"~The spirits have been busy tonight,~" he said.
"Let's go and survey the damage." Skade said darkly. "Ragta's done this enough times to keep them from killing anyone." She raised her voice. "Rhagtan Chanu Gwynt!"
A high-pitched whine came as a reply. As Skade and Nanye entered the body of the cave, they saw the newly bonded pair crouched in the middle of the space. They jumped as the two entered, but Ragta gave a happy squeal when she recognised her friends. Nanye gave a reptilian chuckle and spoke to the cave at large,
"I trust that last night was interesting?"
"It was horrible," Ragta replied. "Nikolai had to set me on fire to stop them getting me!"
"She tried to eat me!" a panicked voice piped up from somewhere behind Ragta. Skade had to smother a laugh as Nikolai appeared, legs wobbling and face bleached white.
"Well, you're here, you're in one piece, and they're gone. Did the bond form?" Skade looked expectantly at Ragta, who nodded enthusiastically.
"Good. Now come on, the others are waiting to meet you." She looked at Nikolai, "And please, try not to keel over and die in front of them. It doesn't give a good impression."
Nanye sidled up beside Ragta as they left the cave, and they were soon embroiled in some sort of dragon conversation. Skade chuckled and strode on ahead. She could hear dragons calling to their riders from the direction of the barracks. The morning wind must have carried their scent, because the cries increased in pitch as they drew closer. Skade was half tempted to start running, just to make them panic more, but decided that Nikolai's nerves would probably snap if she did. He seemed to have perked up a little though, and some colour had returned to his cheeks since they had left the cave - though that might have been wind burn.
"Alright you lot!" Skade cried as they approached the figures who were lining up in front of them. "Come up here and say hello. Nikolai, meet your new friends."
"They don't bite," said Nanye. "Well, not often."