This is a trade with ElektronX. The idea proved challenging to execute, but I had fun working with her characters and creating this piece.
1900 words | 8 min reading time
“Once upon a time, there was a little egg. As blue as the open skies, covered with small speckles. This egg sat in a nest, skillfully woven from grass and twigs. It was not alone, surrounded by its siblings and kept safe underneath the warm, soft feathers of loving parents.
“Inside, a small bird grew and grew – until at last, it was ready to hatch, alongside its brothers and sisters. Their parents looked after them, kept them fed and taught them of the world outside the nest.
“They lived contently like this until one day a great storm struck. The wind howled through the trees, branches clashing and groaning. A great crash was heard as their once-safe haven was ripped from its perch. Tumbling through the terrible turbulence they were torn apart.
“By the time storm had ended, the little chick found itself separated from its family. It cried out over and over, but no answer was to be heard. Alone and lost, the little one wandered the ground – it was young and its wings too weak to carry it.
“A twig snapped and leaves rustled. Something big approached. The chick quickly hid in the thick underbrush and peeped out through the gaps. It spied a fox, it’s orange and white fur pristine save for red spatters. Fortunately for the tiny bird, the beast was not searching for prey at the moment, passing by the bushes that hid the quick snack.
“Nevertheless, the baby bird remained frozen in fear long after the fox had left. Eventually, though, a feeling began to grow inside it. A feeling that unfroze it and drove it forward. Determination. This chick would apply what its parents had taught it. It would survive. And it would do so long enough to return to the skies where it should belong.”
A breeze stirring the leaves of the starlight-bathed treetops punctuated the end of the tale. Two siblings lay in a large nest woven of branches, softened by leaves and downy feathers, supported by the biggest branches of a great tree.
The young Scapes shifted, folding his wings as he turned over onto his back to observe the stars above. His third pair of wings were a sign of royalty amongst the Windchasers, yet they still could not carry him back to the skies. “But how does it end?” he asked his sister.
Hights could be heard taking a deep breath. He knew she did not know the end and he also knew what she would say to assure him, but he still wished to hear it. “It persevered and, in time, grew strong enough to fly and join its kin where it belonged.”
Scapes smiled gently, just as he knew his sister would be. Through the gaps in the leaves, he stared up at the stars above while his eyelids slowly drifted closed. His mind floated up and away into the land of dreams. A place where he flew amongst the stars.
The songs of birds and the warm glow of the rising sun called Scapes back from the stars. He turned to look at his sister and found her already awake, watching him sleep with an expression he’d only before seen worn by their mother.
“Morning.” Her soft tone was matched by a gentle upturning of the edges of her mouth.
He turned to look back up and enjoy a few moments more of semi-wakefulness before responding in kind. After this, he asked, “What is the plan for today?”
She sighed, thinking. “We can probably nest here for a while longer before moving to another area. Those howls have been sounding distant the last few times. I don’t think we need to do much other than find something to eat.”
“Can we play fight in the clearing?” Scapes could feel his ears slowly rising involuntarily.
“Sure, why not.”
With an excited sound, Scapes leapt out from the nest and onto the ground below. Hights followed at a slower pace, taking her time to leisurely stretch.
Scapes rushed off ahead to the nearby clearing he had referred to. Once he arrived, he surveyed it. Tall and lush grass grew abundantly, free from the shadows of the trees. The blades reached higher than his head for almost the entirety of the clearing. Perfect for hiding.
Flaring his wings, he prepared to jump. He decided that he would aim towards the left side of the clearing. With a leap and a few frantic flaps, he landed where he desired. Once in the grass, he crouched down to keep a low profile. The purpose of that exercise had been so that he would not leave a trail in the grass for his sister to follow. Now came the wait.
Blocking out the sounds of the birds and the wind, Scapes strained to hear any unusual rustle or snap that might indicate movement. It was hard, what with the regular gentle breezes, but he eventually thought he heard something moving slowly towards the centre of the clearing. He crouched and carefully turned to face the sound. He tensed, ready to pounce.
A sudden loud crash and thud were heard slightly behind where he’d been tracking the sound. He ignored it. His sister was surely trying to trick him into going after her tail again. He pounced at where he expected she would actually be.
In the moments that he was above the grass, Scapes realised he had once again been fooled. His sister stood where the loud sound had been, having jumped backwards. And she was ready for him. Seconds after landing, Scapes found himself being bowled over and pinned to the ground. He wriggled against his captor for a few moments before conceding the round.
“Gotcha again.” She got off him.
Scapes opened his mouth to make a snarky retort but caught himself. “That you did, oh tricksy one.” He remained on the ground for a moment longer, looking at the cloudless sky. This is when he spotted a number of tiny dots in the sky. Way too small to be clouds or even birds. Plus they were not moving. “Uhh, sis, do you ever see stars during the day?”
“No, I’m serious. Look up.”
“You don’t get- oh. I see what you’re talking about. Still, they can’t be stars.” The two stared at the group of dots, neither hazarding a guess as to what they actually were.
“Hey, look, there’s more there!”
With two groups now visible in the unending blue sky, it became apparent that both groups were moving. And they were on an intercept course with one another. The first group seemed to become aware of the second and changed formation and course so that both groups now flew straight towards one another.
A realisation dawned on Scapes that made his stomach sink. “Do you think they ar-”
Scapes feathers began to tingle and stand on end. Tearing his eyes from the sky, he saw his sister reared up on her hind legs, mouth agape. He dove away from her just as a bolt of lightning arced from her mouth, forking in the air before coming back down to the ground. “What are you doing?!”
“Trying to get their attention.”
“There’s no way they’d see us from way up there. Plus that looks the battle formation dad liked to use. They’re gonna fight! They won’t be looking at the ground anyway.”
Apparently, she did not hear him or did not care, as another electrical discharge arced from her mouth. She fell over after this, the grass cushioning her fall.
“Stop! You’re going to hurt yourself. You can’t properly make or control it yet!”
Hights got up again, rising to her hind legs and opening her mouth, but Scapes tackled her. She struggled for a period before relaxing. “Yes,” she huffed, “you’re right.”
The two watched as the distant groups finally met one another. The individual specks, barely distinguishable from one another, darted around and collided. It was not long before individuals began to drop. As one uncontrollably plummeting creature neared, it became apparent that it was a dusk-born Windchaser. A lump formed in Scapes’ throat. “We should go see if they need help.”
His mind flashed to visions of his own fall, frantically trying to stabilise himself and slow his descent with his damaged wings. “Come on.” He ran off in the direction the Windchaser had fallen. The crashing through the trees was audible even from the clearing.
The twisted and broken thing he found left no doubt as to whether the fall had been survived. He hung his head in mourning. When Hights arrived, she turned him away from the fallen Windchaser, pulling him close and covering him with her wings. “Let’s go,” she guided him away.
They walked with a certain stillness to them, neither venturing a word. Scapes could feel his sister still looking up to the skies in the gaps between the trees, and her body growing tense, but he kept his eyes on the ground. After a long while, she spoke again. “The attackers are retreating. The Windchasers won.” Yet her voice remained sombre.
Some pained cries sounding in the distance became audible. Hights lifted her wings from Scapes and moved in the direction of the sound. He followed. They found the source of the sound: a creature unfamiliar to him, its left wing injured and unable to fly. It was large, flat, and had little distinction between its wings and abdomen. Its leathery skin was pale grey with white patches. It had spotted the siblings and was now brandishing a whip-like tail in their direction. The sounds it now made seemed to be some sort of speech, but Scapes could not understand it.
“What is that?” He received no response. “Hights?”
Hights stepped forward, mouth open. Again, Scapes sensed an electric buildup followed by a small electric blast shoot into the creature. It was not powerful enough to kill but was enough to stun it. She jumped on top of it. “I don’t know.” she bit down on its tail, ignoring the blood-curdling screams the creature made, and tore it off with her mouth. “I don’t care.” she spat blood. “But when I get back up there,” she raked at its wings with her claws, leaving terrible red trails. “I will make sure these,” Another scream from the creature. “the Turbuli that knocked us from the sky,” It had given up trying to get free from her, knowing its fate was sealed. “and anything else that threatens the Windchasers,” She, at last, unleashed a large bolt into the creature, ending its suffering. “are dealt with.” She stood over the corpse, panting. She was splattered with blood, her mouth and claws dripping the life-giving substance.
“Sis?” Scapes managed timidly.
Her tense pose broke as she once again became aware of her brother’s presence.
“Sorry about that,” she approached him with her wings open wide, as if she intended to embrace him. He backed away. She halted and looked down at herself and realised the mess she had made. “I’ll… go get cleaned up… You… find some berries I guess…”
Not even considering the possibility of objecting, Scapes nodded and walked in a direction that was away from both the stream and the two corpses that he knew of.
He understood her anger. But where would it lead her?