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The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 9 November 9, 2012

Posted by techtigger in flash fiction.
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Grey leaned against the smooth stone railing of the balcony outside his room, breathing in the damp morning air. Fatigue still weighed on him from three arduous days of flying through the typhoon, but he could not resist the chance to study the sweeping vista that spread out below the castle. The city of Zephyra sprawled across the high plateau, ten times the size of all the seaports he had seen and it was still only half finished. Everywhere he looked colorfully dressed Air kin bustled about, like brightly plumaged birds.

Even the air itself shimmered, filled with the sound of fountains and wind chimes and wind flutes. Grey had never heard anything like it. The entire city raised its voice in an ethereal song to greet the new day. He was so entranced that he did not even notice that Galen had entered the room until Cavall barked a greeting. He turned and smiled at the older Air kin. “Your city is beautiful!”

“She is the child of my soul, my dream,” Galen said. “Normally I would offer to give you a tour, but time is of the essence. Are you ready?”

Grey gave the city one last look, and nodded. “Let’s go.”

They did not bother going back through the castle. Grey gathered his few belongings, called Cavall to his side and they simply flew from the balcony to a large courtyard near the city walls. He was surprised at the number of people waiting for them there. Men and women of all ages had gathered near the gate, laden with supplies.

Galen held up his hand and got immediate silence from them. “We will take the portal network to the eastern shore. From there we must cross the ocean diagonally to reach the southwestern continent. Aurengrey can guide us from that point. Are there any questions?”

Grey cleared his throat. “Um, sir? My home is west, not east.  And what is a portal?”

Galen gave him a surprised look. “The world is round, my boy. By going east we can take advantage of the high winds and circle around the globe to where you started. As for the portals, well, some things need to be seen to be believed.”  He motioned to the guards to open the gate and brushed his hand over the lintel. Energy flowed over the stones, lighting up casting marks carved into the granite.

The power built up until Grey’s hair stood on end. The air in the opening wavered like a heat mirage, and with a loud SNAP the view changed. Instead of a paved road he was now looking out at a neatly manicured lawn.

The healers walked through as if it was perfectly normal, chatting amongst themselves.  Galen went through last, pushing Grey ahead of him. “Don’t worry, it’s perfectly safe. I’ll close this one and we’ll open the next. I expect we’ll reach the coast in an hour.”

Grey turned to stare at the portal as it shut down. “How? That’s not possible!”

Galen briskly moved to a second arched gate, and repeated the casting. “What is the shortest distance between two points?”

“A straight line, unless there are obstacles to fly over,” Grey said.

Galen shooed him through the next portal. “Aha. There you are wrong. The answer is, nothing.”

Grey looked around at his new surroundings, a small fort sitting high in the mountains. “That doesn’t make any sense.”

“It has everything to do with folding time and space, but you’ll just have to trust the evidence of your own eyes,” Galen said, a smile crinkling the corners of his eyes.

They continued moving east, passing through portal after portal until they reached a citadel overlooking a sandy beach. Galen shaded his eyes against the mid-day sun. “Ah, here we are. Gather close, everyone.” He paced around the group, sketching casting marks in the sand with a piece of driftwood.

Grey looked around at the cheerful group of strangers packed in around him, feeling lost. One of them, a young woman smiled up at him. “Relax, Aurengrey. You’re amongst friends.”

“It feels more like being in the middle of a strange dream,” Grey said.

She laughed and gave his hand a squeeze. “Get used to miracles. Galen makes them every day. My name is Xenobia, by the way.”

“Call me Grey.” He looked down, and saw they were already over the ocean. He hadn’t even felt them lift off. Get used to miracles, he thought.

His second ocean crossing was much easier and faster than the first one. He had a few hours to talk with Galen and the others, and while he still didn’t understand how the portals worked he could at least see that it was just a matter of study to figure it out. They landed as gently as they took off, on a rocky coastline covered in pine trees.

“Were you able to get your bearings as we landed?” Galen asked him.

Grey gave him a curt nod, his eyes scanning the skies. “Yes, we need to move due east from here. Better set a guard.”

Xenobia looked back and forth between them. “Why?”

“No birds,” Grey said. “They always go to ground when there are wyverns are in the area.”

Cavall started to growl, a low ominous rumble deep in his chest. Grey started to gather the winds for a war casting. “Stick together! They like to pick off stragglers just like any predator.”

Galen closed his eyes, listening. “I think they have already found other prey. Beyond the ridge.”

“That ‘prey’ might be my tribe out foraging for food!” Grey said. He rocketed up into the air, spinning the winds around him in a deadly cyclone. He felt a disturbance in the air behind him, and saw Xenobia following him. “Go back!” he yelled.

“If your people are out here they will need a healer!” she yelled back.

“Dammit, you don’t know what you’re up against!” Grey said, but it was too late to turn back. A young wyvern, probably set out as a sentinel, let out a high pitched shriek as it saw them. Grey whirled his arm around as if hurling a ball, and a wind shear smacked into the wyvern, breaking its back. Grey flew high to avoid the plummeting beast, and readied another casting.

The scene below them was complete chaos. Trees whipped about as if possessed, their limbs tangling around any wyvern foolish enough to get too close. The beasts circled overhead, dropping boulders and darting downwards into the openings they created. The bodies of more than a dozen Forest kin lay broken on the ground, obviously dropped from a great height. The smell of blood was everywhere, mingled with the resinous scent of pine sap from shattered trees.

Xenobia covered her mouth in horror as she looked at the bodies. Grey yelled to her, “Forget the dead, you can’t help them. The Forest kin will be in the trees!”

Grey looked around, planning his attack. He needed to clear her a path to get to the ground. “When you see an opening, don’t stop for anything. And watch out for their tails!” He corkscrewed down into the fray, screaming out castings that crashed into wyverns as he passed through their ranks. He arced back up, hoping that Xenobia had gotten through but he couldn’t afford to look back. The wyverns were recovering from the surprise attack and circling around him in a tightening ring.

That was exactly what Grey wanted. He used their own motion to help power his next casting, a massive cyclone of the kind that gave his tribe their name. The winds picked up speed, roaring louder than the cries of his foes as they realized they had fallen into a trap. Their wings got caught like sails in a tempest and Grey could hear the fragile bones breaking. A few of them folded their wings to fall below the lowering funnel cloud, only to be caught by the flailing limbs of trees and smashed to the ground.

Finally, the last of them succumbed and fell to the earth. Grey let the winds go, but followed them down to make sure the fall killed them. A battered group of Forest kin were already moving amongst the beast, directing tree roots to take the wyvern’s heads off.

Grey landed, and was relieved to see Xenobia already working on some of the wounded. Her face was pale, her eyes still a little wild but she looked otherwise unharmed.

The leader of the Woods kin walked over to meet him. “Not many would have come to the aid of those who do not share their element. We owe you a great debt,” he said, and held out his hand. “My name is Aradann.”

Grey shook it, noting that the man’s skin had almost the same texture and color as the bark of the pine trees. “Mine is Aurengrey. And the pleasure was all mine. Any day I can take down a few more wyverns is a good one.”

Aradann laughed. “Spoken like a man who has lived with them as neighbors! Though you do not dress like the people of the plains.”

“Borrowed finery,” Grey said, with a wry smile. “I’m afraid I can’t stay long, my own people need the help of these healers.”

“The Wind tribes living in the canyon?” Aradann said. “You had better hurry then. Word came from the Mountain kin that they were desperate for medicine. We were coming to deliver some when we were attacked.”

“But they still live?” Grey said anxiously.

“Yes, barely. Can you direct us to them?”

Grey let out a relieved sigh. “I’ll do better. I’ll fly you there.”

<– The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 8  ~~~|||~~~  The Wanderer’s Tale – Part 10 ->

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Comments»

1. Mari Juniper - November 16, 2012

Wow, cool!
I’d review this one for a few typos in the beginning tho. 😉


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