by Paul D
History of the Fyrsouls.
Rocart Clan Leader Wingsong folded his wings as he landed on a large outcrop of rock overlooking a large, luscious valley. The winding river below was one of the reasons he'd chosen this place as the home for his people: the Fyrsouls.
He struggled to walk back to his cave. He was more than a thousand years old, and he'd been feeling the wear and tear of time for the past decade. He was very much aware that his time was limited, and it was his duty to his people to made a wise decision in choosing his successor.
The primary candidate was his eldest daughter, Wind's Essence. She was level headed, but he wasn't sure of her leadership abilities. His son, Jagged Peak, was a strong personality, but he didn't listen to advice well. He seemed determined to do things his way.
His clan had never had a female leader, and he'd been conducting discreet inquiries to find out how people felt. He was surprised because most of the responses were positive. The next new moon was in three days, and he wanted to make his choice known then.
He entered his cave and lumbered to his favorite wide area of sand and lay down. Tumbling Rock would bring his food this evening. Wingsong could no longer hunt because his eyesight had been fading for many years.
* * *
Jagged Peak soared over the mountains where all five Fyrsoul clans were located. His status as the son of Wingsong, Clan Leader of the Rocart, gave him respect and responsibility, but he had a vision of power much greater than a clan leader. I will unite all the Fyrsouls and rule with an iron claw.
He looked down at his destination: Clan Sproom, which his father counted as one of his greatest enemies. Peak had discovered that power required compromise in order to consolidate it.
He dropped from the sky, descending quickly, then he suddenly pulled up and spread his wings, landing with a solid thud on the ground a few feet from Sproom Clan Leader, Rock Steady.
He folded his grey and white streaked wings, and Rock Steady got right to the point, mentally saying, I received your message. I have little time to waste. What do you have to say that I should even care to hear?
Peak struggled to hold his fury in check. Rock Steady was trying to bait him to take control of this conversation and perhaps even challenge him to battle. Peak wouldn't allow that to happen. I propose an alliance between your clan and mine.
Rock Steady rumbled in laughter. Your father would never agree.
Wingsong will choose a new clan leader at the full moon. With your help, I'll be that leader, and, with our alliance, we will be more powerful than the other three clans. We can drive them from this land and take it all for our own.
What is this help you need?
My sister, Wind's Essence, will be my father's choice for clan leader. I plan to send her here to mate with your son, binding our clans and leaving my father no choice other than to name me the clan leader.
You have an interesting plan, but will Wind's Essence truly come here?
She will come, and a new day for our people will come as well.
* * *
Wind's Essence was nervous. Her father had been hinting for weeks that he was prepared to step aside and proclaim a new leader for the clan. She was the eldest, but she truly didn't want the responsibility. Her father worked day and night to take care of his people. She wanted to explore, to live her life, and to be carefree. Unfortunately, her brother Peak was a liar and a manipulator. He was as trustworthy as a fanged snake.
Wingsong's cave was large enough for twenty Fyrsouls at the same time. She came to the entrance and said, I have come, father, then she entered. The cave was dark, but she could see almost as well as in the day. Her father lay near the entrance because his eyesight was failing. He looked so old and grey tonight. Are you okay, father?
I'm fine. I'm old for which there's only one cure. I've decided that at the new moon you'll be named the Clan Leader.
I'm not ready to be a leader. I want to live my life.
Wingsong rumbled in laughter. No one is prepared to be a leader, and you'll live your life as you serve your people. It has been hard for me at times, especially after the death of your mother, but I do not regret a single day. Don't fear. You'll do well.
What if I want to choose another life, one that--
Of course, Wingsong rumbled in anger, you could turn your tail on your people and fly away, but you would live with regret for the rest of your days.
I'm sorry. I'll return later when you've cooled down.
She exited the cave, leapt to air, and swiftly flew south. Tears fell from her eyes as she tried to calm her mind. She didn't want to be clan leader; yet, she knew she had no choice. She was angry at Wingsong for his demands and at herself for her weakness.
Suddenly, she was surrounded by three huge Fyrsouls, and one of them was her brother. Keep flying south, Peak demanded, until you arrive at the Sproom Clan. You are expected.
I will do no such thing.
Peak roared and shot out flame. Disobedience means death for you and for our father. Obedience will bring life for both of you. Do you wish to choose death?
Wind's Essence shivered in fear. She could feel her brother's evil intent. I will obey, and one day you'll pay for this.
Peak laughed. My two friends will see you safely to your new home.
Wind's Essence soared south, feeling bereft of her father, home, and clan. She feared what her clan's enemies might do to her. She considered flying elsewhere, but with two huge Fyrsouls alongside, she wouldn't get far.
She worried for her father. What would he think when she didn't return?
* * *
Wingsong woke up. He fell asleep a lot these days. He looked toward the entrance and saw stars filling the sky. Wind might have come when he was asleep and left. Wind, come.
He was puzzled when there was no response. She might have fallen asleep, and he yelled, Wind, come. Silence filled his mind. She'd promised to return. He closed his eyes, knowing she might still be upset for what he'd said earlier. I'm sorry, Wind. Please forgive me.
He awakened late in the morning, smelled blood, and smiled. Breakfast was here. After breakfast, he flew across the valley to Wind's cave and found it empty. He ambled to a neighboring cave and said, Snowborn, have you seen Wind?
No, and she said she wanted to talk to me last night but never returned home.
Let me know when she returns, and he flew back to his cave.
Two days later Wingsong was frustrated by the continued absence of Wind's Essence. The ceremony was tonight. If she wasn't here in time, then another would become the next clan leader.
Time seemed to rush like a river, and the moon was up. The hour of the announcement had come. He stood on a plateau looking down at thousands of Fyrsouls gathered in the valley below.
Peak dropped out of the starlit sky and landed nearby. I have news of Wind. She has joined the Sproom Clan and will mate with Lava Rock.
I don't believe it, Wingsong said.
I wanted to discount the tale as well, but I have heard it from several Fyrsouls. She has betrayed her people.
Wingsong sighed. A sad day indeed. There's no time to mourn her betrayal. It's time to name my successor. He leapt to the air and descended toward the valley below, landing on a high ridge of rock.
The Fyrsouls became quiet at his appearance. My time as Clan Leader is over. I present to you, Star Gaze, the new Leader of the Rocart Clan.
Star Gaze moved forward to the edge of the ridge. I am honored to be given this responsibility. I will do my best for the interest of our people.
Wingsong has been talking with the clan leaders of Vamont, Hipeak, and Beauval. They have come to an agreement; the encroachments of Sproom upon our holds has gone on long enough. We will unite with these other clans, and Sproom will be driven from this place.
A roar of approval rose from the Fyrsouls gathered. Tears for his daughter fell from Wingsong's eyes. She was the enemy now and would be driven away or killed. This was the saddest day of his life since his wife's death. He felt a horrible tearing pain inside and fell off the ridge, landing on the jagged rocks below.
* * *
Jagged Peak was beyond furious at his father's choice. The announcement of Star Gaze as Clan Leader had come as a shock. He still couldn't believe it. There was still one way to become the leader. He could challenge Star Gaze to a battle. Peak was bigger. Gaze was near five hundred years in age, and Peak was twenty. Gaze also had a damaged wing and was unable to fly fast or move agilely. Peak had the advantage. He was confident in the inevitable outcome of a challenge. He left his cave to find Star Gaze.
* * *
Star Gaze was still in the valley. It seemed everyone wanted to congratulate him. He saw Jagged Peak land nearby and start toward him. Here comes trouble, and he began to prepare himself.
Jagged Peak stopped a few feet from him and said, I challenge you to battle.
I accept, Star Gaze replied as he pounced forward ripping Jagged Peak's throat out with his teeth. The younger Fyrsoul fell dead to the ground.
He looked down sadly as Peak's blood pooled on the ground. Never issue a challenge while standing close to your enemy.
Rock Steady said, We are forming an alliance with Rocart. You will mate, Wind's Essence, their clan leader's daughter.
What? Lava Rock shouted. He felt his temper rising fast. Is this your idea of a joke? His father liked to play jokes on him.
Every leader makes sacrifices for his people. You'll be the next leader of the Sproom. Our future depends on this alliance. You can rant, rave, stomp your feet, and blow fire, but you will mate with her for our people's sake.
Lava Rock wanted to scream that he didn't need or want to be mated; that he wouldn't be clan leader for many years to come; that his father was asking him to sacrifice more than he could bear; instead, he said, I have thought you wrong many times in the past and learned you were right after all. I hope this time I will be proven wrong again.
He returned to his cave to lay down to contemplate the dark future that lay ahead for him. What kind of person would sell themselves to their enemy to seal an alliance. The thought of the character of his future mate made his insides churn with resentment and anger. She was going to ruin his life to advance her own goals. He wanted to spit fire for all the good it would do.
He feared he would miserable for the rest of his life. His father truly did ask for too much. Perhaps she would meet an untimely death. His dark thoughts were not welcomed, and he turned his mind to the fact that morning would bring change to his life. He wanted to believe there was a possibility of hope in this union. His doubts were much stronger than the hopes, and he closed his eyes.
* * *
Six hours after being escorted south, Wind's Essence heard one of the Fyrsouls say, Follow me, we are here. She saw a huge valley with a large river that split into two rivers. She landed just behind the Fyrsoul who led the way. Remain here, he commanded.
Wind turned her head at the sound of the other Fyrsoul landing. He folded his large black and red wings and walked toward a cave. She was afraid. Her greatest fear was that they would damage her wings so she could never fly again. She loved to fly.
She saw some Fyrsouls coming out from their caves, and they started toward her. She began to get impressions of anger, and she was very afraid.
* * *
Lava Rock opened his eyes because of an uproar outside. He rose slowly to his feet and left the cave. There was a large wide area to his left where a large number of Fyrsouls had gathered. They were shouting curses and insults at someone. He slowly walked over to see what was happening.
In the midst of the crowd was a beautiful Fyrsoul. Her beauty was so striking that for a moment he felt as if hit by lightening. Her skin was various shades of red with yellow and white stripes. Her wings of silver with black and white spots shimmered under the dawning sun. She held her head high seemingly not disturbed by the commotion.
He let out an air shattering shout as only Fyrsouls can do. It seemed to take on a life of its own as it reverberated in the air. The other Fyrsouls stopped their cacophony and looked toward him. In a loud voice, he announced. This is Wind's Essence; any insult given to her is given to Rock Steady. So if you have something to say, then say it to his face.
The crowd began to trickle away, then stream, and were soon flowing back into their caves. He stared at the female Fyrsoul and said, Welcome to Sproom Hold.
Thank you for your welcome and for sending the rabble-rousers away. In the camp of my enemy, I didn't expect to find a friend. The truth is I didn't wish to come, but I was given no choice. I am to become the mate of Lava Rock whom I know nothing about. I truly, truly hope he has as much kindness in his heart as you. I'm sorry for rambling. I should have asked for your name.
Lava Rock rumbled in laughter. My name is not important. You must prepare for your mating ceremony. Lava Rock has a terrible temper. It would not be wise to anger him by being late. I look forward to the ceremony. I'm sure it will be interesting.
* * *
Wind's Essence entered the cave of Fyr's Breath where he had directed her. She knew he had to be a Fyrsoul of status, or the others would have ignored him.
Greetings to Fyr's Breath.
A soft voice replied, Call me Fyr. You are welcome, sister, to my home.
You are the daughter of Rock Steady?
I thought being of the clan of Sproom, you would hate me.
Fyr laughed. Today you become my sister. How could I hate you?
It is traditional to exchange gifts at the mating ceremony. I have nothing to give. Can you help me?
Fyr walked toward the back of the cave and returned with a rock that on one side looked ordinary but on the other side was missing most of the outer shell, revealing a dazzling beauty of white, blue and pink crystals.
Fyr, this must be one of your most treasured possessions. How can I thank you?
Lava Rock has one of the worst tempers known to any Fyrsoul. Wind's Essence, if you can tame him, Clan Sproom would owe you a debt that could never be repaid.
Wind laughed. Please, call me Wind. I was so afraid when I came here. Now I have met two friendly and welcoming Fyrsouls.
Who was the first?
He refused to give his name. I considered he might be a person of power, but now I am thinking, he is one who might be a troublemaker.
Describe him for me.
Wind replied, He was larger than any of the Fyrsouls in the crowd. His skin is yellow and dark brown, and his wings are black and silver. I thought he was very handsome. Do you know him?
Yes, and you are right. He is a very big trouble maker. I'm sure he will introduce himself at the ceremony tonight.
The time for the ceremony came much too fast for Wind's Essence. She was nervous and afraid. The hardest part was knowing so little of Lava Rock. She had asked Fyr several times to tell her of him, but each time she refused saying, Your mating ceremony will reveal what you need to know.
Wind stood in a large valley before a huge crowd of Fyrsouls. Rock Steady was to her left. Don't worry, he said, my son is something of a showoff. He likes to make a memorable entrance.
Wind's Essence heard a gasp and saw heads looking up. There was a ball of fire in the sky falling quickly toward the ground. She was as astounded as everyone else when suddenly the fire winked out and a Fyrsoul landed.
A few moments later, the Fyrsoul who had intervened for Wind emerged from the dark. He said, Has anyone been giving you insults?
No, I'm just waiting for Lava Rock.
Don't worry, he won't miss the ceremony.
Three Fyrsouls came to the front and began to sing.
There is a binding that cannot be undone
Where hearts, minds, and bodies blend.
They twist together as two becoming one.
Mated to one another, until the very end.
The Fyrsouls in the valley flapped their wings in happiness. Wind looked at the large Fyrsoul and said, I don't think Lava Rock is coming.
Rock Steady roared in laughter. Son, one of these days, your jokes will get you into lots of trouble.
You are Lava Rock?
Yes, and now my father will bind us as mates.
Rock Steady said, Touch your heads together and hear my words of binding.
Lava Rock and Wind's Essence,
With your thoughts becoming as one,
Open your minds to one another.
With your feelings becoming as one,
Open your hearts to one another.
With your needs becoming as one,
Open your bodies to one another.
Wind's eyes opened wide. She truly saw and knew Lava Rock for who he was. She was amazed and left speechless. She heard his thoughts and leapt to the air. They were soon out of sight of the Hold. She let him chase her for a long while, then she smiled in anticipation when he caught her.
* * *
Rock's Fury of the Sproom Clan had an ability few Fyrsouls had. He could hear mindspeak from a long distance. The hard part was to sort out the voices that mattered from those of no consequence. It had helped that he had been nearby for the confrontation between Jagged Peak and Star Gaze.
Star Gaze had sent messengers to the other three clans. He was calling for a war upon the Sproom Clan to destroy them. He had heard enough and flew south
* * *
Two days after his mating ceremony, Lava Rock was headed for his father's cave when he saw Rock's Fury whom Rock Steady had sent to spy on the Rocart Clan. Fury entered his father's cave. Lava stepped carefully to follow after and stopped just outside of the entrance to listen.
A few minutes later, Lava Rock had heard more than enough, and he left quietly, hurrying to his cave. Wind was laying down resting. He said, Come, let's go fly.
Again. so soon? she replied.
He laughed. Hurry, we can talk in the air.
They left the cave and leapt to the air. Lava looked at the beautiful valley below, which he might never see again. He said, I listened to a conversation my father had with Rock's Fury. I have some sad news. Your father and brother are both dead. Star Gaze is the new Rocart Clan Leader. They have declared the Sproom Clan outlaw and to be destroyed. You've been named a traitor and are now under a sentence of death.
Lava felt Wind's sadness and said, I know this a shock. There's more.
My father still believes you are a spy and that you've poisoned my mind, and I am no longer to be trusted. He, also, will declare us both outlaw and to be killed on sight.
I'm sorry, Lava. You have lost your chance to lead your people because of me.
Lava laughed. You can read my thoughts--go ahead.
Now you are being silly. Read them.
You are not angry, and we are going all the way to the western edge of the mountains? Why? The rumors of evils--
Which are just rumors, Wind. We can't stay here, and no one will expect us to go there. In two days, we'll know of the truth of those lands. I say let's wait and see for ourselves.
* * *
Rock Steady fumed. Lava and Wind couldn't be found anywhere. He suspected they may have returned to the Rocart Clan who would be coming here soon. Rock's Fury had already returned north to keep an eye out for the Rocart Clan.
Rock Steady left his cave. He had called for a gathering of his people in the valley below. He leapt up and dropped down, landing on a low ridge and said, All Fyrsouls who are of an age to fight will come with me. Everyone else will fly west for one day and stay until someone comes to bring you back.
He waited while more than half of the Fyrsouls took to the skies. We're not waiting for the enemy who will come in overwhelming force. We're going to chop off its head.
The Fyrsouls flapped their wings in approval. We leave at dark and attack from the east at dawn.
* * *
Star Gaze eagerly anticipated the arrival of the Vamont Clan this morning, and Hipeak and Beauval Clans would be here later today. Then they would go south together and destroy Sproom Clan. He looked forward to their destruction.
As dawn approached, he could see flecks in the eastern sky. Vamont was a bit early, which was a good sign. He called for his people to gather in the valley. This was the beginning of the end of the Sproom Clan.
The sky was filled with Fyrsouls of various sizes. There were so many they almost blocked the sunlight. The Fyrsouls in the valley were excited and talking among themselves. Star Gaze looked up and saw Fyrsouls dive toward the valley. They would be here soon. He was looking forward to the action to come.
Screams from all around startled him. Fyrsouls were being ripped and torn by the Fyrsouls swooping down upon them. Those in the valley had no time to get up into the air, and on the ground, they no chance to fight back effectively.
* * *
Rock Steady lost thirty-five to death and fifty-seven to injury. Rocart Clan was completely wiped out. Vamont Clan would be here soon. In a loud mental voice he shouted, Lie down among the dead, and do not move.He lay down and waited.
Lying among the dead quietly was hard. The sound of the Fyrsouls' wings would be their only clue. His attack had to be timed perfectly. He kept hearing various sounds but none of wings. The waiting seemed to drag on much too long, then he heard a loud sound and smiled in satisfaction. The sound grew louder, becoming a low roar, then the sound changed slightly. Now! Attack! Rock Steady screamed.
The Fyrsouls of the Vamont Clan never had a chance. The Sproom Clan rose up and clawed them out of the air. Screams rent the air as Fyrsouls were wounded and killed.
Rock Steady looked at the valley of death. He had lost ten dead and twenty-one wounded. There were still two more Clans to go. It would all be over soon. To the clouds, he commanded.
Sproom Clan flew above the clouds. Fyrsouls could hover but not for long. He chose to send Fyrsouls into the clouds at several minute intervals to keep an eye on the skies.
They didn't have to wait long. Longborne reported to Rock Steady, A great number of specs were spotted coming from the west.
Rock Steady doubled the interval of the fliers through the clouds. He wanted complete surprise. He felt nervous, knowing his plan held disaster if not executed properly.
A short time later, the Sproom Clan swooped from the sky, sending one Fyrsoul after another to a plummeting death into the valley below. The Hipeak Clan was wiped out without a single loss or injury to his people. Rock Steady was greatly pleased. To the caves around the valley, he commanded.
Rock Steady was counting on Beauval Clan's curiosity to bring them to him. They would find the valley of dead Fyrsouls. It would be natural to begin exploring the caves. Every cave had multiple Fyrsouls waiting to pounce and destroy.
The wait lasted hours before the arrival of the Beauval Clan. Rock Steady could hear the confusion of mental voices, debating what had happened. Then he heard the command for a cave search.
His people remained quiet as he had ordered. He listened carefully then heard movement at the cave entrance. He waited in the dark in a far corner to the left of the entrance. He saw the Fyrsoul enter. Its dark black body made it hard to track.
He continued to wait to see if anyone else would come. He heard a commotion toward the back of the cave and smiled. There was one less Fyrsoul to worry about.
Rock Steady shouted, Attack now! He suspected there would still be some Fyrsouls who had not entered the caves, and they needed to be destroyed. The other Fyrsouls in his cave departed first. Then he left.
He was surprised to see so few battles in progress, and none lasted long. When there were three Fyrsouls against one, the outcome was just a matter of time.
The eastern part of the mountains now belonged to his clan. His people would build a great empire, and he would become the father of a clan with unlimited power.
Lava Rock and Wind's Essence continued west past the mountains toward the vast ocean. I never imagined there could be so much water in all the world.
It is magnificent, Lava remarked. I'm starved. I wonder if there is anything good to eat in the water.
Wind chuckled. You had dinner not long ago. How could you be hungry so soon?
Hummm . . . I seem to recall a strenuous exercise that lasted for several hours.
Wind snorted. It only lasted that long because you're so slow. I had to let you catch me. Otherwise, you would've been grouchy later.
Lava laughed. I let you escape each time just before I caught you to build up your self esteem.
Really? Wind dived down toward the water. Catch me if you can. Wind had always enjoyed playing catch. It was even more exciting now, especially when she let Lava catch her. Her thoughts caused her inner heat to rise. She could hear Lava's thoughts. He was like a blazing fire of desire. She smiled. You will have to work really hard this time. Her laughter increased as the chase took her under water.
She couldn't move fast under water, but she loved it because of all the unique creatures. There weren't many places in the mountains where she could explore underwater as she could here. She dove deeper. Lava was close behind. She slowed down so he could catch her.
Several hours later, they leapt from the water into the air. I told you I would catch you, Lava said.
Only because I let you.
I want to fly high above these lands to see what is here before we choose a place to live.
I like your idea.
* * *
Wind's presence was constantly in Lava's mind. He had noticed other Fyrsouls with mates, and they always seemed obsessed with one another. At the time, he didn't understand, but now he could feel her warm smile at his thoughts. He smiled in return as she agreed with him.
His world had been a dark grey, now it was a rainbow of colors. Beauty that he had taken for granted was revealed in every moment of every day. His eyes had been opened to reality. He felt his heat rising.
You are greedy.
Lava grunted in laughter. I know. These next few hours will be torture because we do need to search this area to be sure it is safe.
It maybe more that a few hours, Wind teased, much, much, much, much more.
Lava chuckled. Hummmm, we'll see about that.
The mountains below were similar to those of the eastern area. It would take at least four days to fly over this area from south to north.
Midafternoon of the third day of the search, Lava saw something that seemed odd. Black smoke drifted upward from caves overlooking the ocean. He flew closer to have a look.
He felt Wind's puzzlement and anxiety along with his own. He felt a sudden sharp pain.
* * *
A wooden barbed shaft exploded through Lava's chest, and he dropped like a rock to the ground below. Wind felt ripped apart inside. Her pain almost blinded her. She flew toward the ocean.
Many hours later, Wind saw an island below and dropped down toward it. She landed and collapsed onto the ground. Her pain and grief was such that she was ready to join Lava in death. Her fury far outweighed her grief. Those who took her precious Lava would pay for their evil. She would crush and destroy them, then she could die in peace.
Wind's body shook as she wept bitter tears. She had never wanted to be mated. Now she would give anything to have him here again. Wind closed her eyes.
Darkness had fallen, and she was glad. She leapt to the air and flew east. She stayed high where nothing on the ground could see her. She continued to the area where Lava had been killed. She circled downward.
A large structure of smooth stone covered most of the top of a large hill. This had to be the creature's lair. She dropped down and landed in a clearing in a nearby forest. She would wait for the creature to leave then kill it.
The wait for morning was a long one, and she fell asleep.
It will be dawn soon, a gruff voice said. and it won't be safe here.
Wind felt a stab of fear mixed with foolishness for falling asleep in an uncertain situation. She rose up and looked at a black and silver Fyrsoul who had many battle scars, indicating his age. His yellowish brown wings were already spread in a position to get quickly into the air.
Well? You coming or not?
Wind spread her wings, and they leapt to the air at the same time. I'm Granite's Heart. Who are you and why are you looking to be killed at such a young age?
I'm Wind's Essence. No one in that place could see me. I wasn't in danger.
He laughed. In that you're mistaken. A Scryer lives there. He would have the Hounders after you in a heart beat.
What is a Scryer and Hounders?
Not from around here--that explains much. A Scryer is a blind daemon who sees enemies. A--
Wind laughed. Daemon? I don't believe in such nonsense.
Your belief or disbelief won't change reality.
Why haven't you gathered the other Fyrsouls and put an end to this evil?
We are Fyrsouls. Where are the others?
I like the name, but we call ourselves Flyers. We are scattered all across the mountains by territory. One territory won't cooperate with another one.
It is the way we have always done things.
I don't understand. You permit this evil to remain here. How can you live in peace?
We avoid this area for the most part. The cost of destroying this evil is just not worth it.
What if this evil spreads?
The Scryer has been here almost fifty years and has not left this structure.
You presume that things will remain as they have been and are now. Change is inevitable. It's only a matter of time. You are correct about the cost. You will pay a price. However, if you wait, what will it cost then?
Granite gave her an odd look. Were you a leader in the place you came from?
No. My father, Wingsong, was Leader of the Rocart Clan. I was to be the next leader . . . which is a story for another day. So where are we going?
There are some caves an hour west of here where a few of us live.
Wind enjoyed the flight as she took in the vast forests and lush valleys below. A few small streams meandered through one valley.
Where do your get your fresh water?
There's a river a half an hour to the east of the caves. There are also a few lakes scattered about, but they are farther away.
Is there anywhere you know of with a large number of caves?
There is only one place like that about another two hours east of where we are headed.
I would like to see that place sometime.
Why is that?
I'm curious. Wind drank in the beauty of this place as she flew. A sharp pain from Lava Rock's death hit her like a blow to the heart. She had been hiding the pain behind her anger. How do I survive this loss?
Your mate would want you to survive and live free. I lost a mate long ago. At the time, I wanted to die. I could see no purpose in life without her. A wise old Flyer told me that life was to be embraced not wasted. I'm glad I listened. You will heal in time. Be patient with yourself.
Thank you, Granite's Heart. You are also wise.
Thank you for leaving out the old part.
We are close now. Over the next mountain.
Wind was a bit nervous as she wondered about how she would be received. They crossed the mountain and descended toward the valley. The caves were high up so they did not drop far. Granite's Heart landed and she landed near him.
The territory leader, Lightening, lives in this cave. Granite explained, then announced at the entrance, I bring a guest. Then he entered. He turned about before Wind had stepped into the cave. He is dead, ripped to pieces by Hounders.
You never told me what these Hounders are.
It is a flying beast so hideous in appearance that it makes your stomach sick to even look at them. They have a wide maw filled with teeth as well as long claws. They have never come this far from the Scryer's fortress. We believed we were safe here. Why would they attack now? We need to check the rest of the caves.
Wind was shocked at the sight of the Fyrsoul in the cave. It had been ripped to pieces. Blood was splattered all over the walls. The carnage done here was not natural. She felt as if all the hate in the world had been unleashed.
Less than an hour later, Granite said in a voice heavy with sadness. Eighteen dear friends gone. Fear grips my heart. We need to check the other five valleys in this territory. I dread what we'll find.
The sun neared the horizon as they dropped into the last valley. Wind hoped they would find living Fyrsouls here. There was no hope for the other four valleys.
Granite landed first and entered a cave first as he had each time. His sorrow was so strong that it couldn't be masked.
I'm sorry, Wind said, let's check the rest of caves and get some rest. Tomorrow will be a long day.
* * *
Granite's Heart flew east with Wind's Essence. She was determined to warn the other territories. He thought they might regret this decision in a few minutes. The caves of the territory leader were just over the next mountain. Wind had refused to tell him of her plan. He wondered if she even had one.
All too soon they were over the mountain and above the valley. Wind dropped like a rock, shouting as she descended, I am Wind's Essence, Queen of the Fyrsouls. I am calling you to come. Come now to the valley and hear me. Your lives and those of your territory are in grave danger. Come now and hear for yourselves.
Granite was shocked that Wind had named herself Queen. She landed first and he joined her. It didn't take long for the other Flyers to join them. There were twenty-four in all.
I am Wing's Strength. Those who trespass on our territory die.
I am Queen Wind's Essence of the Fyrsouls. The days of territory are gone. We are all Fyrsouls. Granite's Heart is the only survivor of his territory. You will suffer the same fate of his people if you fail to listen. The Hounders ripped to pieces all the people of his territory. You believe you are safe here. Are you truly safe?
There is a safe place, and it is far to the east. You must send a warning to your other caves and gather every one here. Then we will go in force to every territory leader and tell them what I am telling you now.
Today you have a choice. You can choose to listen to me or choose death.
Silence hung in the air like a cloud threatening to thunder at any moment. You speak as one demanding obedience. My father was also one like you. Your youth surprises me. I find few of such an age with courage or wisdom. I will serve my Queen.
The word Queen was shouted over and over. Wind spoke again. I am glad you choose life. We must move quickly now. The enemy could strike at any time.
* * *
Three days later Queen Wind's Essence flew at the head of more than five thousand Fyrsouls as they traveled east. She had named Granite's Heart the Clan Leader of the Fyrsouls. From this day forward there would be only one clan.
There had been a few who protested fleeing from an enemy, but no one had been able to suggest how to kill the Scryer or the Hounders. Wind did not see it as fleeing but as a strategic withdrawal.
She wondered how her clan and the other four would receive them. She would know soon because in the next valley was the home of the Rocart Clan.
Wind flew over the valley covered in black. The black lifted like a fog dispersing into the air, revealing a sight beyond belief: a valley of ripped, torn, and bloodied bodies. Her people and more had come to a gruesome end.
This valley below is now the graveyard of the Fyrsouls. We fly south to see how the other clans fare.
Seven hours later, they left the third valley of empty caves. I wonder if the Sproom clan will be gone as well.
Somehow, I think we will find a valley of Fyrsouls ahead, and hopefully some answers to what has happened.
I have a feeling that Rock Steady is what has happened.
* * *
Rock Steady was surprised to see Wind. Where is my son?
Lava Rock was killed. What has happened to the other clans?
They went to war and died.
You are responsible for the deaths of all these precious Fyrsouls?
I am the leader here. You have no say in anything.
Granite said, Wind's Essence is the Queen of the Fyrsouls. Your leadership of your people has ended. He leapt forward and ripped Rock Steady's throat out.
Wind's Essence looked down from a cliff at the bodies of almost five hundred Fyrsouls, lying in the Fyrsoul's graveyard. There were not enough tears in the world for this horrible tragedy that had overtaken her people. The first Fyrsoul became sick several months ago, then the illness spread, and Fyrsouls began to die one by one, then two nights ago, five hundred died in one night.
Wind's Essence was Queen of her people, and they looked to her for answers, but she knew nothing of this sickness. Also this was the year for mating, and she didn't have a mate but would need to find one soon.
Rock's Strength dropped from the sky, landing a short distance from her. He folded his large, solid black wings and began walking toward her. He was one of the ugliest Fyrsouls she had ever seen with patches of many colors splashed all over his body with no pattern to them; she had never seen another Fyrsoul with one color wings, but worst of all was his neck, which was straight. Every Fyrsoul had a curved neck. Some people murmured, He is not a true Fyrsoul.
Then he looked at her, and she was startled. He could not read her thoughts as mates could; yet, he looked at her as if he knew. He continued to walk toward her and said, Our water supply, as you and many others believe, may be contaminated, and we have been checking the lakes, ponds, streams, and rivers all around and found nothing. Crag's Peak told me today of a river that he thinks has gone underground. We are leaving in a few minutes to try to find it and may not be back for many days.
I will come with you.
You may not have a dry cave.
Wind's Essence laughed. I won't melt if it rains.
* * *
Rock's Strength had never seen a Fyrsoul as beautiful as Wind's Essence. Her skin was various shades of red with yellow and white stripes. Her tail was shaped perfectly, and her neck--he sighed. Her curved neck was absolute perfection. Pay attention, he chided himself. She's a Queen and would have no interest in an ugly brute like you.
Did you say something? Wind's Essence asked.
Sorry, I was talking to myself.
Down there, Crag's Peak said as he descended toward the ground.
The dry river bed twisted its way over the terrain. Rock's Strength glided over it, following its path toward its source.
How much further? Wind's Essence asked.
A few more hours, Rock's Strength answered. Eight hours later, he saw the smoke in the sky. Already he could smell and taste it, and it was horrid. The smoking mountain, Queen, is most likely the problem. It is best we turn back.
* * *
Wind's Essence was sad, they were leaving this hold for a new one. Her people were spread north and south over seven different valleys. This valley, which was once of the Sproom Clan held a special place in her heart for her long departed mate, Lava Rock. His death almost five hundred years ago felt like yesterday. She still missed him so much.
She had learned something of Rock's Strength on the flight. She felt the need to take a mate again, and she wanted someone of strength. When the time was right, she would ask him.
* * *
Rock's strength dropped from the sky, changed the angle of his descent as he lowered his legs, snagged the deer in the middle of its frantic flight, then flew back toward Fyrsoul's Hold.
Falling Water's mate had not returned from his hunt in the north. Her little ones prevented her from leaving her cave for extended periods to hunt. He dropped the deer near the cave entrance where he had left fresh meat for the past few days.
* * *
Granite's Heart learned early on, as a Clan Leader, the importance of knowing what was happening. He received daily reports from various Fyrsouls who provided information he needed.
One name that continued to be in the reports was Rock's Strength. He was untypical of the average Fyrsoul. He appeared to fly a path that only he could see. He watched out for his neighbors without their knowing it. He had been of great help in their move to this new location several months earlier.
If there was trouble, he came to help whether he was asked or not. Lately, he had been leaving fresh game for Falling Water because she and her little ones needed it.
Granite's Heart had been Clan Leader for almost five hundred years. His strength had been failing for several years, and a new leader would need to be chosen soon. He felt satisfied that his choice would do well.
* * *
The Fyrsouls gathered in the large valley. Granite's Heart sat on a low cliff overlooking the valley. He said, A new Clan Leader of the Fyrsouls has been chosen. He is a Fyrsoul who does not need direction; when he sees a need, he doesn't ask others what to do; rather, he takes care of it. He does not seek power, honor, or glory. He wants only to take care of his neighbors. He is one some of you know well: Rock's Strength.
Hey, Rock, Granite's Heart was speaking of you.
Rock's Strength gave Black Rock a withering look. What are you talking about?
You weren't listening?
Jumps Mountains had a problem he wanted to discuss.
You are expected up front, Black Rock urged.
If this is another one of your jokes--
I promise; no jokes this time.
As Rock's Strength walked toward the front, he heard well wishes from many people. Maybe I should have asked Black Rock what Granite's Heart said.
He arrived at the front, and Granite's Heart said, Here is your new Clan Leader, Rock's Strength, serve him well.
Rock's Strength was speechless, then Queen Wind's Essence said, Congratulations, Rock's Strength, and I have a request, would you be my mate?
Wind's Essence words caught Rock's Strength by surprise. She was powerful and beautiful. Why would she-- He smiled. I accept, Wind's Essence, with one condition.
Oh, what is it?
At day's end, we speak no more of work.
Wind's Essence laughed. Granite's Heart told me that you had common sense. It seems he was correct.
Wind's Essence struggled to her feet. Her one thousand year reign as Queen had been celebrated recently. Lately, her aches and pains made her feel twice as old. She was glad that her daughter, Sun's Ray, was so bright and eager to learn. Even at age six she displayed wisdom of those much older. Wind was glad because Sun's Ray would be the next Queen.
Wind had thought she would never have offspring, then she had been gifted with this precious daughter. In the year of her birth, a strange people had come to the plains to build odd shaped things. These people knew nothing of mind speech. The Fyrsouls called them Aireth because they came from the air. She had told her people to stay away from them.
Rock's Strength entered the cave. Three young ones are gone.
They were playing in a cave and have disappeared.
Follow their tracks.
There are no tracks.
You are making no sense.
I know. It is unexplainable. Sun's Ray is one of the three.
No! Wind screamed. I don't believe it.
I'm sorry, Wind. We will find them.
I don't know.
My people need a Queen to keep them as one. Without a Queen, they will fall back into those dark savage days and destroy one another.
We will do our best. We will find her, I promise.
* * *
Rock's Strength was at a loss. They had searched all day and found nothing. It was if the young Fyrsouls had vanished into thin air.
He returned to his cave to find Wind crying. Sun's Ray was her heart, and he feared she would die if the precious one could not be found. His dear mate's pain was his pain as well. All will be well, Wind, give it time. His words had little effect.
The search continued the next day. Rock's Strength felt so hopeless and helpless. He feared he could not keep his promise to Wind. His people would suffer so much. Where was she?
As the sun neared the horizon, he heard a soft Faegala voice calling, Come to the Aireth place, now!
Rock's Strength shouted, Fyrsouls to war, now. His people filled the air. The Faegala were a people similar to the Aireth, except the Faegala had wings and could mind speak. The message had been filled with panic and an urgent demand to hurry.
He could not comprehend what had happened. He flew quickly with more than two thousand Fyrsouls toward the Aireth place.
It was dark as they neared the Aireth structures. He heard Sun's Ray say, Father, we are here.
After Sun's Ray explained all that had happened. The Fyrsouls took to the air again. They fell upon the Aireth place and blasted it with fire, destroying it and everyone.
Sun's Ray led Rock's Strength to a Boxensol tree where a female Faegala, called Sani and an Aireth male called Beau lay dead. They had given up their lives to save Sun's Ray and his people. He wept for them and said, We will not forget your sacrifice--not ever.
* * *
Sun's Ray stood on the bank of the Feingla River near some Faegala villages; she came here every year since Sani, a Faegala, and Beau, an Aireth, had sacrificed their lives for the Fyrsouls.
Her reflection in the water revealed how much she'd grown in five years. Her dark brown skin flashed bright with yellow stripes. Her shapely tail was half as long as her body. Of course her best feature was her long curved neck. She wasn't crazy about her silver wings; they were too plain. Her friend, Red Petal, had huge wings that were red, pink, and white.
Wind's Essence, the Queen and her mother, was near death, and Sun's Ray would be the next Queen of the Fyrsouls. She had been learning from birth how to be Queen; it was an awesome responsibility. Her people's welfare depended on her. Wind's Essence had been Queen for more than a thousand years. Sun's Ray was only eleven years old. What do I know of being Queen? Am I truly ready for this?
She heard a sound, looked up river, and saw a female Faegala flying her way. The Faegala landed at her feet, and Sun's Ray looked down and saw that she was old.
My name is Momau. Sanistia was my daughter. I have always wanted to meet you.
Tears fell from Sun's Ray's eyes. I am sorry for your loss, Momau. Your daughter was so brave. The Fyrsouls promised to remember your daughter, and we will.
My daughter always went her own way; she chose the path of her life. She didn't sacrifice her life; rather, she chose to live it in her own way. You will be Queen soon. Consider how my daughter lived then choose how you will live.
You are wise. I did not know the Faegala had such wisdom.
Most people have wisdom, but they choose to ignore it.
I want to be a Queen known for her wisdom as well as for her beauty.
I wish you well, Sun's Ray, and I am grateful that you and your people will not forget my precious Sani. There has never been a Faegala like her, and I fear there will never be another. She should have been a Fyrsoul.
Momau flew away, and Sun's Ray wept, remembering the words she had said that drove Sani to act.
So you would give up without a fight, Sani? Your words make me very sad because I cannot imagine living life in such a manner that I would give up hope and quit. We are prisoners, but we still have hope. Will you help us? Will you try? Or will you do nothing?
Sani chose to give her life for the Fyrsouls; I must do no less.
Return, immediately, Sun's Ray, Rock's Strength said in her mind. Queen Wind's Essence is dead, and you must take your place as Queen.
* * *
word count - 8782
* * *
If you wish to read Sani and Beau's story, "Gemistal: Fyrsoul's Hope"