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The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 2 August 31, 2012

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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(the mini-series with Grimm’s origin story continues!)

Ten years wrought terrible changes on the people of the winds.  Aurelius’ prediction that more wyverns would come proved to be more accurate than he ever could have imagined. They kept coming, first in flights of four to six, then tens and twenties, until the skies were black with leathery wings. At first the tribes had tried to stand and fight, but they were soon outnumbered. The herds that were the lifeblood of the tribes dwindled and the Air kin starved. Finally, they were forced to give up the open air, and retreated to caves found in the sides of a deep canyon that stretched across the western reaches of the plains.

The years had wrought changes in Grey as well. At sixteen years old he was already as tall as his father, although he still had that unfinished look that told of more growth spurts to come. He now wore armor made of wyvern scales, and kept a heavy barbed spear near to hand. One thing had not changed, however, he still had a hound by his side. Cavall was a wolf-hound, one of the huge mixed breeds Aurelius was training. The shaggy beasts were a cross between the swift, sleek runners of Grimm’s childhood and the tough, muscular dire wolves of the far southern mountains.

Grey sat to one side of the cavern on an outcrop of rock, fondling the hound’s ears and listening to the endless arguments of his elders. He rather wished they were more like the hound, quiet and useful. Their pointless bickering was getting on his nerves.

Raynard, the chieftain of Gale was the main instigator today. He shook his greying head in profound disapproval. “What good is fighting anymore? We tried that and look at us now! There are more old men and half-grown boys in our ranks than solid fighters.”

Brennan of Tempest was barely more than a ‘half-grown boys,’ but he was the oldest surviving member of his tribe, which gave him a place on the council. He crossed his arms and returned Raynards glare. “We can’t sit here and starve, either. We have to take back our lands!”

“We can move again,” Raynard said. “The herds have moved north, and we should follow them as we always have. The traders agree, things are not so bad in other regions.”

“Yes, it’s always better somewhere else,” Brennen said, his voice dripping with scorn. “I should think a man your age would know better than to believe traders’ tales.”

“Watch your tongue, whelp!” Raynard snapped. He rounded on Grey. “Speaking of whelps, what about you, Aurengrey? You’re the voice of Cyclonis till your father comes back, and yet we haven’t heard a word out of you all day. What is your vote?”

“Two weeks,” Grey said, glad that his voice had finally settled into a deep bass. It leant him an authority far beyond his years, and with this bunch he needed all the help he could get. “My father asked us to wait that long for him. So we wait.”

“For what, boy? No one has survived out in the open that long for years,” Raynard said, throwing his hands up in disgust. “You sit there in that damned ugly armor, doing nothing, and for what? Do you hope to see his ghost?”

Grey stood up. He was tall enough that he could look down on the older man. “If more of us had worn armor like this, they would still be alive.” He inclined his head toward the tunnel that led up to the canyon wall. “You can leave anytime, and take your chances with the wyverns. Cyclonis will wait.”

Grey snatched up his spear, called his hound to heel and left.  He could still hear them talking though, the acoustics of the cavern carrying their words along after him.

“Now I know why he’s so quiet,” Brennan said. “He’s so angry that his words choke in his throat.”

“Bah. I’m angry and you don’t see me biting my tongue,” Reynard replied.

Brennan snorted. “Mores the pity.”

That started the argument all over again. Grey had heard enough. Those two had been at it all week, and he was sick of listening to them. His father had a plan, a good one, and all they had to do was wait for him to come back home to set it in motion.

He gathered up the winds that moaned through the caverns and took off, flying and break-neck speed around stalagtites and rockfalls.  The hound ran below him, his broad paws finding purchase on even the most broken terrain, easily keeping up with his master.

They wound their way upward, to an entrance that was just below the cavern rim. Grey dropped back down the floor and rested his spear to one side. He inhaled deeply, filling his lungs with clean air. He was tired of dust and grime, musty chambers and still, dead air. Brennan was right, he was angry. This was no way for an Air kindred to live.

A shadow swept over the face of the cliff, and Grey backed up a few steps. There were always wyverns overhead. The damned things were smart, keeping watch in turns in case some bold or foolish person should try to leave the caves.  One of his friends had died that way just week before. Grey glared up at them, his hands clenched into fists. Oh yes, he was angry.

He grabbed his spear and moved back out to the entrance. “C’mon. You want me? Come and get me, you stinking cowards!”

The shadow raced against the cliffs again, followed by the high-pitched cry they used to signal the others when they sighted their prey. Grey hefted his spear, looking for a target. More shadows crossed over him and kept going, five, seven, ten, and then he heard the booming of Air castings in the distance. They wyvern’s weren’t after him.

“Father! He’s back!”

He leapt out into space and rocketed upwards, racing to meet the tiny specks that wheeled and fought overhead.  One of them faltered and dropped, only to be caught by another. Wyverns circled and dove in, larger silhouettes against the glaring white of the clouds.

“Hang on dad, I’m coming!” Grey said, and put on another burst of speed.

Overhead, more shadows gathered, and the high pitched cries filled the air.  Grey could see individual shapes now, five people spiraling and darting amidst a dozen of the huge predators.  The entire hunting party had made it back!  He did a quick spin, making sure no more wyverns were sneaking up on him. The sky was clear and they creatures had not noticed him coming. A dark smile crossed his face. He had a new trick he had been wanting to try.

Grey flew straight up, so high that his breath came out in frozen plumes. Then he hovered, turning in a slow circle, reading the fast moving wind currents of the upper air.  Sounds from the battle below sent his pulse racing, but he couldn’t rush this. It had to be right, or he’d do more harm than good. He began sketching casting marks in the air with the tip of his spear, and flicking them outwards until the air around him hummed with the gathering energy. Frost laden air rushed through the marks, gaining speed, and Grey’s lungs began to ache from the cold.  The last mark settled into place, and he reached out with his will to grasp onto the construct.

And the he unleashed Hel.

Roaring winds swirled down and clashed with the warmer air below, the turbulence so great it nearly ripped the wings of the wyverns near the edges of the cold front. Lightning rained down, and the winds howled as they whipped around in a monstrous tornado. Hail followed, and wind shears the snatched up the creatures,  snapping bones and dropping them from the sky.  And in the midst of it all, in the calm eye of the storm, Grey floated down to gather up his battered kin.

Aurelius flew up to give his son a bear hug, pounding him on the back. “Now that is a proper welcome home!”

Grey was grinning from ear to ear. “It won’t last long. We’ll have to make a dash for the caves. But I can help anyone that needs it.”

Aurelius looked up into the maelstrom. “I think we can manage it. By the heavens, we will manage it,” he said, giving Grey a fierce smile. “We found it. We found their nesting grounds.”

“We’re finally going on the hunt?” Grey said.

“Oh yes. We are going to put an end to this.”

To be continued!…

<- The Wanderer’s Tale, Part 1   —|—   The Wanderer’s Tale, Part 3 –>

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Comments»

1. Mari Juniper - September 1, 2012

As usual… MORE please! 😀


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