Wednesday, November 30, 2016

First Flight! Reader's Challenge to the Writer.

Brooke Smith

1. Naive, upbeat, young bird-person
2. Mt. Doom!
3. Coming-of-age task: find and complete a quest/adventure
4. Magic bottle of never-ending ale

(Brooke, this one is just cruel)

Merador had been hatched almost one hundred years after the explosion of Orodruin.  The land had been returned to the slaves after the volcano had exploded into a fiery cascade of ash, lava, and burning embers.  Merador had been taught the ancient histories.  He knew that the land had been desolate before the explosion.  But even so, he would sometimes come across a strand of small trees that all lay in a blackened tale of the force the mountain had sustained, their corpses all pointing away from the mountain.

Since that day, the lands had been enriched by the ash.   Birds had dropped seedlings and hearty plants sought the light of the sun once more.  The harpy had taken over a strand of young forest about fifty years before his birth.   He took a deep breath from the branch he crouched upon.  He would have to leave soon.

The harpy were a matriarch clan.  Males were pushed out.  They were rare to begin with and sometimes were even destroyed at birth in other clans.  His was the Clan of the Darkwood.  Born in the shadow of what remained of Orodruin, the leader, Alastymia had declared that living in the shadows of evil was enough.  However, when he turned to his eighteenth year, he would have to leave.

He eyed the mountain, now more of a series of hills and jagged rock.  He tried to imagine what it had looked like before it had exploded.  But his mind's eye never seemed to quite do it justice.  When the mountain had still stood, the time of the harpy had been strong.  Their clans were far from the reaches of the man cities.  But after the mountain had fell, orcs and man alike had seemed intent on driving them out of their homes. 

He watched the approach of the two riders.  They seemed to be human from this distance. They weren't on ponies, this ruled out dwarves.  They were far to solid for the fair and flowing forms of the elves.  That left human.  He was a bit excited to be on his own hunt and not at the command of the hunting band.  He would get to be closer and he would be able to test his own skills. 

Merador knew that his father had been human.  Once a human had lost his ability to give a child, they were sent to the gods.  It was the way the harpy mated.  His only hope of his own mating was after he left the clan.  Harpy males were seen as inferior.  In addition, he was told that many could not even sire a clutch.  Thus, over time, it had just become forbidden. He didn't mind so much.  As harpy aged, they became less and less attractive to him.  Their shrill voices grated on his every nerve. 

Merador had been allowed to hunt alone to prove he was ready to leave the clan.  He also would use his gains to support himself on his solo flight from the nest.  He knew his mother was getting impatient as she no longer even let him help with his younger siblings. His own clutch mates had already established nests of their own.

Merador moved down a branch gracefully and watched the two approach.  One appeared to be a female.  He stared intently.  He had never seen a human female.  Given their bulky cloaks, the only way he could tell was by her slighter frame and more delicate features.  He stared with intense curiosity.  Were they like the harpy, the females?  Did they whine and complain at every step to the males about them?  Did they kill their males after they mated? He realized he had so many questions. 

The two humans were intent on their conversation from the backs of their horses. He knew that the races of men and elves could not fly as he could.  The beasts they road upon was the only way over land that they could move with any speed.

Merador carefully feathered his bow.  He stuck out his long tongue to test the wind.  He gave a soft call to the birds that had begun to still at the approach, urging them to sing and make merry.  He didn't want the humans to become cautious.  Slowly, he melded his own soft tenor into a song with the birds then coaxed the song up and into a melody of its own. 

He smiled as the two humans stopped their horses looking around.  The male looked alarmed for a moment so Merador sent a sense of safety and calm into his song.   It took only moments and the soft smile on the humans' faces let him know they were in his thrall. He continued to sing as he left the arrow fly towards the center of the male's chest.  He didn't need him.  He needed what was in his saddlebags.

Merador glided down from the tree, still singing to beast and woman.  The horse let him approach with no more then a stamp of its foot.  The other one seemed to not care as the male slid off of him.  He stared up at the woman, being sure to keep the safe and soft melody crooning over her.  She was so beautiful.

He reached up to touch her deep red locks.  They reminded him of the redwood trees on the far side of the forest.  Her skin was fair except for these strange brown spots that be-speckled her nose.   He touched her face and found it soft to the touch.  How could he kill such a creature?  He knew the moment the clan saw her, the woman would be dead.  Harpy were extremely jealous creatures and this human's beauty would be damaged and then she would be killed slowly.  He glanced back at the woods, trying to see if he was being watched.  He sensed no Harpy nearby. 

He carefully lifted the human female down.  She accepted his assistance willingly.  Her face looked up at him with adoration.  He realized he liked that look, but he knew it was only the song.  She would be horrified by him the moment the song let her go.  He left her standing as he carefully took down the saddle bags from her horse and laid them on the other.  He would let her go.  He knew a way around the path through the Darkwood.  He wasn't' sure he could sing the whole way, but he would do what he could.  

He fingered through the bags swiftly, finding a bottle of ale.  He loved ale.  He barely ever had it as travelers usually carried only a little.  He smiled at the beautiful silver decanter.  He would drink the ale then trade the container for more supplies for his flight.  He took a long pull of it and then moved to the woman. 

"Drink," he commanded.  He could let the song go for short periods of time before she would awaken to her own senses.  She obediently took a drink from the bottle he held to her lips.  

"What name, female of human?" His common was not fluent, but he knew enough to be understood. 

"Bethany," she softly murmured. 

"Bethany,"  he repeated carefully.  He liked it.  "Get up on your horse."  He stood to the side to let her mount the horse, ready in case she needed help.  She obviously knew these beasts as she made it into the saddle smoothly. 

It took him almost the whole day to maneuver Bethany around the Harpy filled forest.  He had to be back before the sun set behind the jagged rocks of the dormant volcano or he would be thought to have failed this solo hunt. 

The fact that that he had brought them a feast despite the hour would ensure him a proper welcome.  Harpy loved the taste of horse flesh.  It was rare these days to find horses anywhere in the lands about them.  

He stood in the shelter of the tree branches at the edge of the wood.  He had left Bethany's horse tied to a roadside bush.  It did not take long before she stirred from the release of his spell.  He watched as she dismounted to look about her.  He frowned when she called out a name, most likely her companion.  It was not his name on her lips.  He found that this upset him but he did not stir from his spot.  He drank deeply of the ale from the bottle, wanting to end the feeling in his stomach.   He didn't know what it was, but he knew he did not like.  

He realized suddenly that the bottle should be empty.  Merador peered into it to find that it was as full as when he had first opened it.  His smile grew as he realized that now, he could have all the ale he wanted.  There would be no trading of this bottle, he vowed.

He watched as she untied the horse and got back up on it.  He would find her once he flew from the nest.  She would know his name and his touch.  He would not need to sing for her to know it.  He would have her as his mate.  Merador smiled happily at the thought then moved back into the forests to retrieve his spoils, content once more, he headed for home.