July 24th, 2015
Lask awoke to find himself beside Falient. Raising his head, he saw Wyatt curled around him, an arm thrown across Falient, hand just brushing Lask’s right wing. Lask smiled at the sight of them snuggled up beside him. His eyes glanced up to the nightstand, finding the vase of flowers. He gave a fond smile at them, and at the piece of pie next to the vase. Perhaps it would be breakfast in a little while. He turned his head, glancing over his shoulder to see the brilliant wingspan that covered him and draped off the bed. His smile widened, and he carefully pushed himself up, sliding off the bed in a single sinuous motion to avoid waking the others.
He stood in the rosy glimmer of early light and stretched, arching his back, curving his wings up and over his head. He went to the chair near the wardrobe, finding a pair of pants there, which he buttoned on with still-sleepy fingers. He opened one of the drawers in the wardrobe and selected a shirt, smiling as he saw the house had provided appropriate clothing. He stepped into the shirt, pulling it up, sliding the sleeves on, guiding the open back around his wings, then fasted the three clasps at his nape. He admired himself in the mirror for a moment, unable to hold back a grin. Deciding the occasion deserved a bit more ornament, he fastened on a gold-studded belt with crimson scarves, and an embroidered feather collar. Satisfied, he pulled on his boots and tiptoed to the doors on the far wall. He had to open the full set of double doors to fit through, tucking his wings down low.
Lask emerged on the balcony, just as the sun was coming up. Its glowing light crested the falls in the distance, painting the sky in brilliant strokes of purple, gold, and crimson. Lask looked skyward, and gave a faint flap of his wings. Even with the gentle motion, he could feel the lift from them and smiled. He looked down, studying the orchards and vineyards, and the cobblestone path below. It would be a bad fall, though probably not fatal. Lask glanced back at his wings again, rustling the feathers.
Throwing caution to the winds, he vaulted over the balcony rail, flaring his wings and giving them one powerful flap. He fell only for a moment, then those wings floated him upward. He made another stroke, flapping up to land on the roof above his balcony. He gave a giddy sort of grin, then jogged along the roof, leaping upward with a downstroke of his wings, and pushed himself up to land on the rear tower. He heard the ravens squawk below at his arrival. Lask leapt from the tower and spiraled upward, following the tallest tower up past the beacon. He hovered over it for a moment, then stretched a foot down, folding his wings to land on the highest spire of Del Sayronet. For a moment he stood there, gripping the metal lightning rod, leaning out toward the sunrise, basking in its glow. Using the rod as a pivot, he swung himself around to look out across the island.
Avigdell was gilded in the rosy gold of sunrise, the trees shining out beyond, the wildflowers bobbing in the fields below where the horses were beginning to graze. He could see a glint of light reflected from Quinn’s roof out in the treetops, and beyond he could just see the top of the bridge far on the outer point. He smiled at the sight of his beautiful island, how it shined in the dawn like a jewel.
He extended his arms, as if to embrace the whole island, then let himself fall, plunging into a dive off the tower. He tucked his wings, cutting through the air like a finely honed knife, then flared them as he neared the ground, catching a wind to go soaring across the meadow. He flew low, crossing the field with lazy strokes, the tips of his feathers brushing through the flowers. The horses nickered at him, several cantering over to inspect him. He flapped higher, and planted his feet on Theramancer’s bare back, mostly hovering, and let the stallion carry him through the field. After a moment, he leapt over to another horse, then another, spinning and stepping across their backs as they ran, his wings keeping him aloft, not quite putting his weight on any of the horses. He laughed at himself, then spun away from the herd, rolling in the air and continued on, flapping toward the trees. He set his shoulders and pushed himself faster, shooting toward the forest edge like an arrow.
As he came upon the trees he turned himself sideways, tucking his wings for an instant to thread himself through the space between the trunks. His wings flared and trimmed, gliding through the forest, weaving through the trunks as faint shafts of light shone through the foliage. He snagged only a few branches here and there. It was as if his wings remembered the way, as if he had kept himself in practice in his sleep for so many years. He worked his way out to the tallest tree in the wood and circled up the length of the trunk. He landed on Quinn’s balcony with quiet feet, and peered in the window. The boy was sound asleep on the bed inside, hunkered in the covers, a beam of sunlight striped across his nose. Lask smiled, watching him for a moment, then turned away, letting him sleep a bit longer.
Opening his wings again, he leapt from the platform and glided across the tree tops, the brisk wind holding him aloft without needing to flap. He banked and soared, following the curve of the island out to the far tip. The rising sun reflected in the river below, and Lask dove toward it, swooping low to splash his feet and wingtips in the water, then headed toward the bridge, weaving his way through the supporting arches before circling up to perch for a moment on one of the pillars by the gate. He lingered a moment, surveying the ground beyond his gate where he had been attacked, the nearby edge where he had fallen into the river. He imagined he could hear himself screaming, but thought perhaps now the echoes in the place might begin to fade. He looked through the trees on the mainland, catching a glimpse of Kotelvira in the distance. He thought about going over and ringing all the bells on the castillo, but decided he’d let its residents sleep. One should be kind to Demons, especially the good ones.
He opened his wings and returned to the morning sky, soaring up the river and over the crescent of Atorcoppen. He could see a few children far below, shuffling out into the morning. He looked up, at the inviting softness of the clouds and smiled a bit. He pushed himself further upward, climbing through the air with steady forceful beats of his wings. He could feel himself starting to get winded as he rose, but pushed on, thrusting himself up into the midst of the clouds, higher still, to the very peak of the nearest cumulus. The air was thin and cold; it was such a long-forgotten sensation, it was hardly uncomfortable. He hung in the heavens a moment, then let himself fall backwards, dropping in a graceful arc over the peak of the cloud, and plummeting through the mist of it. It bathed his face in cool caresses, which dried the moment he was out and the wind rushed past him.
Lask tucked his wings and fell, dropping like meteor through the sky, taking in the emerald curve of the island in the glimmer of the river far below. The wind tugged his hair in the playful knots, and buzzed in his feathers like the hum of the cosmos, and as he fell, Lask smiled. When he began to near the river, he opened his wings again, the wind sending him gliding out across the water, toward the falls. The colors of dawn were beginning to fade, but the faint blush of the sky still reflected in the crystalline water.
Lask neared the crushing torrent of the falls, and glided just on its outskirts, feeling the cold spray on his skin. He rode the wind up to an outcropping of rock near the vast curtain of water, and folded his wings to land. He had not stood in this place in twenty-five years. As he landed, he wondered if he should take off his boots.
Everything was exactly as it had been the last time he had stood here. The flowering vines grew thick up the ancient stones, and the lanterns he had affixed to the walls were still there, though long since burned dry. The books he had tucked in a sheltered crevice in the stone were dusty, but intact. Some of the objects on the flat stone, which served as a table, had fallen over, but they were all there. He righted the candlesticks, the inkwell, the hourglass. He opened the metal box there and smiled. It had remained sealed all these years. No water had soaked through at all. He reached inside, pulling out the brittle folded papers– the first three letters he’d ever received from Phena. Lask held them to his heart for a moment, then smiled, glancing skyward, wondering if she were watching this morning. He had a feeling she was.
He tucked the papers into the inner pocket of his shirt, then settled down to sit on the bench he’d made to pass the time during his first weeks in the world. It was made from a single huge chunk of cedar, and the graceful arc of the back was cut with a curve, which allowed him to sit with his back against it, and let his wings dangle freely behind, over the edge of the stone. He leaned back, resting his arms across the back of the bench, and looked back toward his island. It gleamed in the morning sun, and he smiled. His family would be waking now, and he wondered if they would worry when they found him gone. He grinned and thought, Prolly not.