July 21st, 2015 • Avigdell
Lask’s wings waited in the healing solution. It had taken weeks for them to regenerate in the sarcophagus Garth had constructed, but now they were full and vibrant, floating in the glowing water in the corner of the infirmary. In the center of the room was a table, where preparations were happening. Lask lay on the table, and Falient was trying to make him as comfortable as possible. Elanor had taken the day off work and laid down in the dark at home, so as to clearly project herself to perch on a stool by Lask’s head. Giemm worked at a counter nearby in his human shape, but was careful to not let Lask see any of the instruments he was preparing. Stefin was with him, and the two murmured to each other about what needed done. Belara had fished the Shaktar out of the solution, and was acquainting herself with it. Ivan had explained it to her earlier in the day, but she’d only had a brief time to handle it. Wyatt was waiting off to the side, as if standing guard over Lask’s wings.
Giemm finished preparing his tray of tools, then draped a cloth over it to cover them, and carried it to the wheeled cart beside the table. He set it down, then looked Lask over, and laid a hand on his back.
“I’ve gotten everything ready,” he told him. “I’d like to draw a few lines on you. Don’t want to reattach them crooked.”
Lask nodded. Giemm took up a pen and carefully drew it along his shoulders, marking the workspace. As he made the lines, Giemm said,
“I’m going to start with the left one first, then we’ll move everything around to the other side to do the right one.” He paused. “I know you’ve said you need to be alert, but I asked the Library about a more localized anesthetic and it gave me instructions for one. I got Jeandra to help me make it. It won’t deaden everything, but it should help, at least for the incisions… might not be much to help what comes after. I have it here, if you want it.”
Lask glanced to the floor. Elanor ran her fingers through his hair as Falient said,
“I’d take it. No shame in it. If I’d had the option when they reattached my arm, God knows I’d have taken it.”
“Very well,” Lask agreed.
“Good,” Giemm said with a nod. He glanced at the Writer and made a subtle gesture. Elanor smoothly used her hand in Lask’s hair to guide his face to turn toward her. While he looked away, Giemm uncovered the tray and took up the syringe there. He gave it a flick, then used his free hand to feel along Lask’s spine.
“It has to go right here,” he pushed on a spot between Lask’s shoulder blades. “It will only hurt for a few seconds.”
Elanor kept working her hand through Lask’s hair, and gave him a wink. Giemm slid the needle between Lask’s vertebrae with skillful aim. Lask closed his eyes, but made no sound. The contents of the syringe seemed to rush into him like cool water. He could feel it spreading across his back, a seeping sort of coolness. Giemm stroked his shoulder as he withdrew the needle, and Lask realized he could feel the touch of his hand less and less.
“Working?” Giemm asked.
“Seems to be,” Lask replied.
“If you’re ready, I can go ahead and get started.”
Lask glanced to Elanor, who smiled at him, then he gave Giemm a nod.
Giemm nodded to Stefin, and the Sun Demon reached into the sarcophagus for the left wing. He hefted it out, the shining solution still clinging to the feathers. It dripped as he carried it over. He rested it over his shoulder as Giemm took up a scalpel. The Runner paused with it a moment over Lask’s pristine white back, and looked to each of the other alkesh members. It seemed almost blasphemic to take a knife to their aldar. They all wore an expression of solemn anticipation, but each seemed to urge him on, a silent approval in their eyes. They knew it would take all of them if it were to work. Elanor gave him a nod, and Giemm placed the scalpel against Lask’s shoulder.
Elanor worked her hands in smooth, slow strokes through Lask’s hair, rubbing his nape a bit with each pass. She leaned close to his face as Giemm drew the scalpel downwards, drawing a stark crimson line through his white skin. It didn’t hurt like Lask thought it would, but he still tensed at the pressure, and Elanor could see the slight change in his breathing.
“You’re ok,” she whispered to him, “You’re surrounded by people who love you, who want you to be whole and happy. It’s not like last time.”
He nodded a bit, trying to let her voice enfold him. His eyes drifted over her shoulder, to the vase of flowers on the table, sent by the Reader as a symbol of her presence.
Giemm was a skillful surgeon, having made a straight, clean incision down Lask’s shoulder. He switched out the scalpel for the thin saw he would need to open the section of bone where the wing joint needed to reform. Wyatt swabbed the blood from the wound so Giemm could better see his workspace. Elanor watched him peripherally, not taking her eyes from Lask’s face. She could feel the memories swirling in him, visions of the horrible night he spent under Phena’s knife long ago. The uninvited visions threatened to send him into a panicked spiral, but he fought to keep them at bay, trying to stay focused on his vessel’s eyes and words.
“You’re ok,” she told him again. “You’re–” There was the muffled grate of the saw and Lask’s breath drew in. Elanor saw his fingers tighten on the edges of the table. “You’re safe,” she continued. “You’re here with your family, we’re helping you reattach those beautiful wings–” Lask’s breath shook as Giemm carved out the thin piece of bone, which had grown over the wing joint. As Giemm removed the piece of Lask’s shoulder blade, the alkesh could see the remains of the joint beneath, places where Lask’s body had not forgotten his wings.
“–Soon you’ll be soaring again,” Elanor continued, whispering to him while she worked her fingers through his hair, holding his eyes. “Up over the island, looking down at the colors of everything. Your garden is very bright this time of year.”
Giemm set the chunk of bone aside, and motioned to Stefin. Wyatt swabbed the wound clean again, tossing the blood-sodden rag back onto the counter. Stefin shifted the wing, offering the base to Giemm. The Runner placed the saw against the exposed bone and shaved off a narrow slice to reopen the end so it could meet with the open bone in Lask’s shoulder. The Sun Demon hefted the wing, bracing it against him. Falient stepped up behind him to support the end of the wing so it wouldn’t slip off balance. Giemm carefully parted Lask’s flesh, sliding the end of the wing into the wound until it rested in the hollow he had carved. All the while, Elanor whispered to her spirit, and stroked him as his breath trembled.
When Giemm had the wing in place, he stepped back and motioned for Belara. She took his place, holding the Shaktar in one hand. She paused, glancing to the others, who nodded to her. She found a grip on her potent magic, calling it out as she did in her lessons with Cantebon, and directed it down into the Shaktar. The device flared to life, its orange-gold glow washing over Lask’s back.
“Time for your fire, dearest,” Elanor told him.
Lask obliged, summoning his own magic, the flames kindling in the wound, steaming his blood, lapping up the base of the wing. Elanor could see the fear growing in him, could hear his breathing becoming ragged, but she never changed the rhythm of her stroking.
“You’re going to be fine. You’ll be gliding on the wind,” she told him, “Over the trees, over the river. You’ll be able to see everything from up there, and the sun will be warm on your back. You’ll go flying with Quinn–”
Lask couldn’t stop the low sound that rumbled out of him. His eyes found their way again to the flowers behind Elanor, reaching for the Reader, and his jaw tightened. He put his head down, bracing against the pain. Belara moved the Shaktar in careful passes through his fire, the magic fusing the wing back to his body. Lask’s fires were strong and unyielding, but his breath grew more and more ragged. His fingers clawed at the table, and he couldn’t quite keep still. He reached for the Reader in his mind, pushed his head against Elanor’s hand, tried to draw on the presence of everyone in the room, as if he could will the magic to work by the force of them. Wyatt leaned over the table and put a strong arm across the top of his shoulders, while Giemm mirrored him, sliding an arm under the wing to lean on the small of Lask’s back, holding him down to the table. The pain had made it impossible for him to keep still.
Belara’s jaw was tight, but she didn’t let up, channeling the magic of the Shaktar down into his shoulder, despite the ragged cry that was wrenched from him.
“You’re going to be alright,” Elanor murmured to him, in the same voice as ever. “The pain will pass, and when it does, you’ll have back what was taken from you.”
Belara glanced at Stefin. No one knew how long it would take the Shaktar to work with Lask’s magic to reattach the wing. The wound was knitting itself, but it wasn’t healing fast. Lask’s skin had beaded with a fine sheen of sweat, and his breath shook and gasped, as if the very act of breathing was agony. His fires did not relent, despite the gut-wrenching sounds that growled out of him. The Sun Demon held the wing with firm hands, giving an encouraging nod to Belara.
“You’re safe,” Elanor was murmuring. “You are safe here, and well loved. What’s happening is controlled. You could stop it anytime, but you won’t, because you want what’s on the other side–”
Lask strained against the table, against the grips of Wyatt and Giemm, as a scream was forced out of him. The haunting peal of his voice rang in the infirmary, and through the halls of Del Sayronet. The fires flare brighter, and Belara held the Shaktar steady, its magic regrowing bones, joint, and flesh. Another scream was wrenched from Lask’s throat, and suddenly the wing jolted in Stefin’s hands, flailing loose from Falient’s grip. The Sun Demon tensed as he wrestled to hold the wing still. It was stronger than he would have thought, and as Lask’s scream crescendoed, the Demon lost his grip. The wing buffeted him and Belara, knocking her clean from her feet. The magic of the Shaktar vanished as she lost her focus.
“Shhhh,” Elanor murmured, brushing Lask’s hair out of his face as he lay gasping on the table. She smiled a little at the sight of the wing sprouting from his shoulder. “Beautiful Hawk…”
“It’s there,” he whispered, voice raw. “I feel it.”
The wing shifted, the soft rustle of feathers bringing the flicker of a smile to his weary face. Falient approached the table, and ran a wondering hand down the length of the crimson and gold primaries. Lask smiled a bit more and gave them a twitch, lightly swatting Falient’s hand, seeming amazed at the return of sensation.
“It worked?” Belara asked, picking herself up.
“Seems to,” grunted Wyatt.
“Perhaps we should let you rest a moment?” Giemm inquired, moving the rolling cart around to the other side.
“No.” Lask shook his head. “No, finish it.” He lowered his left wing out of the way, letting it drape off the table, elegant feathers pooling in the floor.
“That’s my brave Lask,” whispered Elanor, brushing his hair back. She could see the fear leaving him, giving way to an eager determination.
Lask glanced over his shoulder, finding Giemm stepping up to his right side. His crimson eyes flicked from the ready scalpel to Giemm’s face. “Do it,” he told him.
“As you wish, my hawk,” Giemm replied, placing the scalpel against his shoulder.
Lask steeled himself and looked back to Elanor’s face. She smiled at him as Giemm cut another line down his back. As he did so, Stefin fetched the other wing. Lask watched him carry it with an odd mix of trepidation, appreciation, and sheer excitement. His eyes returned to Elanor and he gave her a smile even as Giemm put the saw to his scapula. He lay his head down with a sound that was almost a laugh as Giemm cut through bone, his eyes finding the Reader’s flowers through his haze. Elanor brushed her fingers through his hair, smiling at him.
“That’s it, darling,” she murmured to him. “Just a little more.”
Giemm carved through the bone faster this time. It was as if Lask’s body were eager to give it up, willing him to take the piece out of his shoulder. Giemm extracted the piece of bone, then waved Stefin over. Wyatt stained yet another rag as he sopped the puddle of blood from the wound. Again, Stefin offered the end of the wing and Giemm reopened it. The Sun Demon braced his shoulder against the wing, hefting it up so Giemm could position it in the incision as he had before. When he had done so, he moved out of the way for Belara.
Elanor nodded to Lask, holding his eyes, and whispered, “One more.”
The Shaktar engaged again, glowing to life with Belara’s magic. Lask set his jaw and summoned his fire back, the flames billowing out of the wound and up the wing, welcoming it back to his body. His head lolled against the table, and Elanor could see him riding the exquisite pain of the fusing. She rubbed his nape gently as his hands tightened on the table. The sounds that rolled out of him were still harsh from the agony, but there seemed to be a different note in them. When Wyatt and Giemm had to lean across him to push him down against the table, he seemed to rise against their hands, welcoming their weight. The left wing stirred, and Wyatt tried to reposition himself to push it down. Belara set her jaw, unyeilding with the magic as it mingled in Lask’s fire. The scream that thundered out of him seemed to trail off into a breathless laugh. Wyatt and Giemm strained to hold him. Stefin could feel life beginning to stir in the right wing and tightened his grip on it. Elanor never stopped murmuring to her spirit.
“That’s good,” she whispered, “Soar above the pain, bask in the love here. We are the wind for you. You will fly very well, and very high,” she said as another scream was torn from him.
The fires burst in a searing flare and Stefin could hold him no more. Wyatt was thrown back from the table alongside Belara as the wings flailed, flaring upward. It seemed like everyone was shoved back from the sides of the table, the room falling silent except for the sound of Lask’s panting breath. Elanor looked over him as he lay there, and smiled. His enormous, brilliant wings hung over him, swaying gently with his breath. Lask raised his exhausted head, looking over his shoulder. Something seemed to light in him at the sight. His gasps turned into a breathless, almost disbelieving, laugh, and the tears he had held in check broke over his face.
He lay his back down on the table, tears streaming alongside his smile, and those magnificent wings stretched and spread, arcing over the heads of everyone in the room, his feathers brushing against the walls, unable to extend their full length in the room. His family smiled at the sight, and Falient reached up to run his hand over those feathers, the motion making the golden edges flicker like sparks. Lask smiled, and folded them back, the feathers covering the full length of him like a blanket, and cascading off the table.
“You should rest,” Elanor told him.
“I need to sleep,” he said. “Probably days. I would like to be in my own bed.”
“I’m sure we can get you there,” she replied.
Falient and Wyatt went to the table and helped push him up. The skin of Lask’s back was deep purple with bruising, and he winced as he moved. He shifted, putting his legs over the side of the table, wings falling over the other side into the floor. For a moment he sat there, catching his breath, then slid off the table. Wyatt and Falient each took one of his arms around their shoulders, bracing themselves against his sides. Belara opened the infirmary door for them, and Lask hobbled out into the hallway. His feathers dragged behind him like the robe of a king. Elanor smiled at the sight, and Giemm reached for Stefin’s hand as they they watched him.
The group followed him out, trailing behind his train of feathers as he made his way down the corridor to the stairs. It seemed like a long way, but Lask plodded up, half carried by Falient and Wyatt. When they finally entered his room, Lask stripped out of his pants, not caring his entire alkesh was present, and stepped free of Wyatt and Falient. He crossed the room with slow careful steps, the light from the stained glass rippling over his feathers and skin as he moved. He ascended the three stairs to his bed, and promptly collapsed onto it face down. He seemed to fall asleep in seconds, and for a moment, his alkesh could only watch him, a lithe figure of living alabaster draped like a spill of satin across the bed, with his mantle of magnificent wings spread across his back, over the bed, and onto the floor. He seemed to glow in the colorful spray of light, and even as he slept, he smiled.