Make me fly

On a bright spring morning, a young girl faces her destiny. Will she fly or fall?

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1. Make me fly

Come with me to a world that is vastly different from the one you know, and yet not that diffent. For life is still lived and humans still yearn for love and acceptance and power. The sun, though weakened from the disastrous Solarian Wars, shines upon a fragmented world of a thousand realms and a thousand thousand inhabitants, and upon a girl that will change the future of her House and her people.

 

* * * * * * *

Homing Grounds

Year 758xx

* * * * * * *

 

A light breeze sweeps across my skin as the Servant of the Stone removes my feathered cloak. I am dressed only in the ceremonial chiton, made from the finest white silk and reaching only to mid-thigh. My arms and shoulders are also bare, and I shiver in the early morning breeze. The wind coming in from the far reaches is cool and smells of frost and storms.

 

“You look so beautiful and strong,” Mother’s voice whispers in my ear. I can feel her soft fingers skim across my cheek like cool velvet. I lean into the touch, the slightest indulgence of weakness before I face the challenge.

“Mother, hope for me,” I say quietly, and step forward, into the light.

An expectant gasp rises from the crowd that has gathered to watch the ritual on this crisp spring morning. A morning out of legends, a morning such as the one it is told that princess Yin Yana did the first Jump and saved the world.

I keep my gaze steady as I walk through the crowd. A wide path has been cleared, the people keeping their distance, their faces showing expectancy, amusement and rather obvious contempt. It is to be expected, I remind myself. People had so high expectation of my family, but when both of my older sisters refused to take the Jump, the rumors began to circulate. It did not help much that my brother succeeded and touched the sky. The first Windrider was female, and the wind-worth of a family is measured by the prowess of its women.

So here I am, ready to take the Jump, and prove that my House is still a force to be reckoned with.

I know that I very well can die today. I do not find the prospect very frightening. I never, ever thought that I would get to Jump, and even if I have almost no chance of succeeding, I will give it my all. This morning, as I walk towards the edge and the vastness of the blue sky beyond, I have never felt more alive.            

I can hear the soft footfalls of the Servant following seven paces behind me. I am barefooted, as the ritual demands, and the ground is rough and hard beneath my feet. I think of the thousands that have walked here before me, my mother included. She Jumped, and was found worthy, rising to the sky on silvery wings. I admire her so much, and I know how much it pained her when my sisters refused. I grit my teeth. I will try. At least I will try.

A gold mark has been laid into the rocks and I stop as I reach it. The cliff’s edge and the empty sky are seven paces away, seven paces between me and destiny. I swallow and turn my head. I see my brother, standing to my right. He is standing alone, because he is the only Wind Rider in the family. His light blue hair, unruly as ever, is flying in the breeze and in his left hand he holds a pole from which soars a bright red banner. Long golden tassels snap in the wind and a cord of earth amber and shrutel pearls are wound around the pole. A circle of gold encompassing a circle of silver is embroidered on the banner, the crest of my House. Red is for luck, and the amber and pearls for remembrance of the earth and sea of old, and the crest – the crest is for honor and a reminder of what I am up against, the perpetuity of a line that goes back to before the waters rose.

Being thus reminded is not making my spirits rise or making my heart beat calmer. Mother, stand by me, I ask. My brother frowns, sensing my distress but says nothings. He is not permitted to intervene.

To my right stand the Witnesses of the Arch, a middle-aged woman and a young boy with bright blue eyes. They are both dressed in the black, gold-trimmed togas of the Arch, and their faces are calm and kind, but distant, as if watching me from a very great height.

It is very rare to see Arch-sworn, but if they are rare, their companion is a creature out of myth.

She is standing close to the edge, her face turned towards the abyss, so all I can see of her head is a fall of straight hair as pale as moonlight. She is tall and so slender that it would have looked sickly in any other isastar, yet she is achingly feminine, a statue sculpted from snow, black and glittering like a starry night, like the sky above her home, the highest peaks inhabitet by humanity.

She is a Sun Warrior and her powers are beyond this world.

In her hands she holds an oval object seemingly formed from the same material, see-through and distorting, with pale, moving streaks of red. About twice the size of my head, the object seems to weigh less than a snowflake. It is an egg, and it holds my destiny. Or my death.

She is dressed in a chiton not unlike mine, and it is strange to see the familiar garment on a living legend. And also very calming. We have something in common, even if she is a mountain and I am a pebble.

Then she turns her head, and all thoughts of any semblance are gone, blasted from my mind by the sheer impossibility of her appearance. I knew that the Warriors were different from all other branches of humanity, but this!

A diadem of crystal as fragile as ice on a mountain stream adorns her forehead and her face is narrow and beautiful. But her eyes, or what is in place of where her eyes should be – I feel my knees grow weak. The Warrior has no eyes. In their place is not merely skin or dark cavities. No, twin holes of bright blue stare at me, and I realize that I can see straight through her head and into the great sky beyond. It is like two tunnels have been dug through her head, but there were no holes in the back of her head. Or where there?

I cannot look away from the blue holes, they seem to carry the full force and draw of the sky. The lure and the dangers.

I think I understand now why the Warriors must live in isolation, away from the rest of humanity. Their souls are too dangerous.

“Shazu!” My brother calls out my child name, his voice sharp and concerned, and I blink and turn. It is probably a terrible breach of etiquette, but he smiles at me and I smile back and for a moment I forget all about blue tunnels and rituals. We are back in the gardens of Wyzavir, mock-fighting beneath the shades of the ancient Oaks, laughing and cursing and the world and its troubles are far away as we chase each other up branches and down curtains of moss as thick and strong as emerald ropes.

I draw in a shallow breath, filling the tips of my lungs and straighten myself. I am a scion of a House that has shown it worth through more than four Grand Circles, and even produced a Prime. Our beautiful green lands, the crystalline lakes where we swam as children while mother watched over us, the misthang forests and fields of ripening sunshimmer. We cannot lose all of this. I will forfeit my life rather than our lands.

With new determination steeling my spine, I step across the golden mark and go five paces to the edge of my world. The Servant of the Stone lifts his arms, and the crowd falls silent. Even the wind seems to die down.

“We are gathered here to witness the union of Akalin of House Wing and the Elementals. May your days be blessed and may the light of the Sun reach all the depth of your souls. Eoth’thermina.” 

All eyes are on me, even the unseeing ones. I can feel them at my back.

I say aloud the words.

“I thee wed.”

And Jump.

 

* * * * * * * *

 

I was never the most promising of children. Even in a family such as mine, that has risen to soaring heights and careened to abysmal failures, I was an uncertainty. I have been told that my birth-mother held me up, while we were still connecter though the umbilical cord, and turned me this way and that, and then laughed. We were still one body, the same waters running through us, when she said, “this one, she will outdo all the rest”, before kissing my face and handing me to the midwife for assessing.

When I was a child, and my sisters were constantly outdoing me in everything from the simplest crystal weaving to levitation, I clung to those words. I will outdo all the rest. My time would come, I would outdo them all.

Outdo the rest.

I hurtle through the air, my thick, sapphire braid beating around my face and the wind howling in my ears. I fall like a rock and my stomach twists into knots. This is nothing like the controlled, slow movements of levitation and I start to silently recite a litany of wounding to fight down panic.

Out of habit, I Jumped head first, and through the tears in my eyes I can see the Vastdeep spreading out beneath me, bright skyblue fading into mists and pale clouds shrouding the shimmering, purple depth of the Forbidden Fathoms. There are stars below me.

I swallow and close my eyes. The roaring of my blood is so loud it blocks out the wind and my heart feels like it is beating its way out of my chest.

Hands for taunts

Eyes for truth

Belly brings the pain

and leave the heart for shame -

Mentally, I go through the familiar routines with blade and hook, forcing myself to fall into the rhythm of the exercises, and slowly, my heart calms and the panic recedes.

Having regained some semblance of control, I twist around and feel the heat of the sun on my face. I open my eyes. I can see the rim of the Landfall Cliffs, dark against the sun, rapidly soaring up and away from me. It feels like a lifetime has passed and yet it can only have been a few seconds.

Time seems to freeze. If I disappear into the unknown reaches of the Vastdeep or rise on elemental wings, it doesn’t matter. I will fly or die.      

Mother…

There is movement above me, a slender silhouette, black against the glare of the sun, standing on the edge. The silhouette is crowned with light and holding light in its hands. Then I hear a cry that seems like half like light, half sound, and a glittering form breaks free and streaks down towards me, like a living lightning. My eyes are riveted to the form, and my mouth is open in a silent scream of fear – exhilaration – denial? I hardly know. The bright form fills my eyes, my mind, all of my senses.

Two electrical blue spot glow at me from a wedge shaped head and as it comes closer, the shape becomes more defined – sleek wings unfold and a long tail lashes out, crackling with energy. And it is hot, radiating heat so it feels like being next to a furnace as it reaches me.

With a sinuous twist, it streaks under me and then above me, faster than I can turn and then it is beside me. Wings tucked in, it turns it head towards me, the burning eyes boring into me.

My braid is coming undone and through the wildly flying strands of blue hair I stare wildly back. This wild, burning thing, how can it be my destiny? It is like a piece of the sun; it will burn me to cinders for sure.

An image of my brother flashes through my mind. Shy and anxious, even fearful sometimes, though the sweetest, most considerate person I know – he did this. But he never told me that it was like this – so raw, so fierce – so painful!

The creature opens its mouth and roars like a thunderclap, and I jolt, doing a somersault and the world spins around me. Half of it is dark, half of it is light, bisected by the lightning brightness of the elemental. As I tumble wildly, the darkness and the light turn into a dizzying blur, and only the brightness remains constant. It must be spinning with me, I realize with sudden joy.

With me.

I roar back and reach out, not caring about the pain. It feels like sticking my hand into an open fire, and yet the pain is as thin, as transparent, as the crystal that housed the elemental.

A thin layer covering something else, something deeper, ice on a deep lake, and I plunge right through. Energy and power surge through my hand and up my arm, my veins are burning and my bones feels like they are outgrowing my body. I am expanding, my mind swelling like a prayer balloon with the requests of the doubtful. I see now that the darkness is simply the wall of the Landfall Cliffs, and the light is the distant, open sky. I have fallen so far that the bedrock of the Homing Grounds has come between me and the sun.

I see! And I hear and smell and feel and think with a clarity I have never known before. It is like a dark sack has been pulled from my head. My breath is like droplets of honey rolling through me and with it comes the most profound feeling of love I have ever experienced. It is the difference between being told of dried fruit and biting into the most succulent, sun-ripened apple in the orchard, sweet juices dripping down your chin. It is sitting in a dark cave with only a candle all winter and then walking into the spring sun.

Love, pure and eternal, fills me to overflowing, and I reciprocate. Such power, such magnitude and such promise, how can I not be in love?

Now I know how my brother did it. Now I know!

Oh, life is a joy and each day will be a better feast that the one before.

I am no longer spinning. I am upright, floating in a way I have never done with levitation. For I am flying. I feel the wind flow across my wings like soft caresses, and my elemental, my love, is all around me.

Mother, I did it.

 

* * * * * * * *

 

“SHAZUUUUU!”

I am not surprised to hear my brother’s voice pierce through the wind – he has always had impressive lungs – and he loves me very much.

Calmly, I hang in the shadow of the Homing Grounds, just reveling in the sensation of wind across my wings, and wait for him. My elemental is perched on my shoulder, as light as a butterfly, as strong as a Prime.

And then he appears, streaking around an outcropping of rocks shot through with veins of gold. He is astride his elemental, Suiah, a splendid phoenix with a coat of licking, ruby-red and soot black flames. The eagle like head bears a third eye above the black beak and the clawed feet can cut through solid rock. Seated on the elemental’s back, my brother looks like fire himself, his skin flicker like embers and his hair stands up like a blue flame.

When he sees me, his eyes widen in surprise and then he lets out a triumphant shout and raises a hand in greeting. Suiah stalls, hovering in front of me, wings outspread but unmoving. In its full glory, an elemental is not a slave to the laws of this world such as humans are. And if we are joining with them, they can lend us their power and set us at least partially free.

“Shazu! You did it!”

My face splits in a huge grin.

“I did! Finley, why did you never tell me how wonderful it is?!” I extend my wings and soar out of the shadow and into the light.

“How could I have explained this to you?” he laughs and I laughs even louder. No, it is impossible to explain this, this love and power and sheer wild possibilities. The worlds that are opening up.

“Never.”

My beloved elemental jumps from my shoulder and flits around my brother and Suiah, measuring them up. It has taken on the rough shape of a winged lizard, though still more lightning than flesh, and Finley follows its flight with an excited expression.

La’it! How beautiful you are! I am Finley and this is Sui’aah’eeee. Welcome!” he exclaims warmly. Suiah inclines its head graciously, and blinks a long, burning blink.

“Sister, what is your Companion’s name?” he asks.

“I – don’t know,” I stammer, suddenly realizing that no name accompanied all of that effortless love. For a moment, I falter. I am sure of the love, but no name? All elemental Companions have a name of their own choosing, even if it has to be shortened to better fit a human tongue.

Then there is a whisper in the back of my head, reassuring but also teasing.

Mezz’tch’qu’etzzzz, it says, the sounds slowly turning into a low hum, like that of an electrical wire.

“Mezzt,” I say aloud, with a relieved exhale, and my brother grins at me.

“Mezzt,” he says, with a much better buzz than me. Finley always had the Stone’s gift of music and voices.

“Mezzt, be welcome to our family. I hope you will be happy here.”

I flap my wings lazily and soar up, stretching and arching my back and enjoying the sun’s warmth on my face. It is still early in the morning, the sun has not risen past the 6th paragonal line and I remembered how chilled I had felt on the ledge. No more. I have a pleasant warmth inside of me. Perhaps this is what it feels to have a soul. I do not need one now. I have Mezzt and I will never be cold again.

I will never be alone again.

I shoot into the air and then let myself fall abruptly backwards. My stomach twists with thrills and the distant islands seems to rise into the sky. Then, I snap my wings open, and come to a sudden halt right in front of Suiah. The phoenix glares at me with all three eyes. As fond of me as Finley is, as disapproving is his Companion.

Finley leans forward, over the ruff of shimmering flames around Suiah’s neck, and exclaims: “Not half bad. I’ll look forward to our next match!”

“I’ll swat you like a fly!” I promise fiercely. Ha! A match with wings! I can hardly wait.

But before fun, there are serious matters that must be attended to.

“Finley, what do we do now?” I ask plaintively.

My brother looks at me and grins like a skywolf that smells prey.

“We go and show them what our House is made of!”

I grin back.

“Let's!”

I stretch my wings, energy surge through me and we rise towards the sun and the waiting crowd.

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