Attilles warned me of the destruction the leggers would bring to the land. As I fly south, smoke from their dying fires chokes me. The sky is still deep gray, though if I squint I can see the hairy sleeping bundles. I have a few more hours to find his body before they wake.
I left the roost yesterday evening when Threnody, the hen from Kouhmar settlement, told me Attilles was dead. His blood feather is in the pouch around my neck. When I try to picture Attilles, Threnody’s gray face looms before me instead, and her words:
“He seduced me. I didn’t know he had your feather, Rai.”
She tried to touch my hand, and I nearly slashed her with the knife I’d readied for myself. Instead, I left. A warrior’s body should be cremated, so the soul can fly…
My shoulders are numb from the sustained flight. My lips are cracked and my cheeks burn from wind exposure. I’ve never gone this far from the roost. Instead of becoming a warrior as most males do, I learned my family’s crafts of weaving. Attilles visited my hut for throws and baskets. Once, I felt the weight of his gaze on my hands as I worked, and when I met his eyes, he looked away.
I didn’t expect him to choose me for his gyre partner. It was a bright, fair day, and the hens from the roost wore their finest jewels. My chest was painted with Ullo clan symbols and my family had groomed my crest and wings. The bright spots on my cheeks glowed. I thought one of the warrior females would have me.
But Attilles approached, extending an open hand. We were gathered at the edge of the cliff, where the roost ends and the sky begins.
“Will you give me your feather, Weaver?” he asked.
His crest was adorned with charms and braids–one I recognized from my hut. I followed the tips of the feathers to their base at his forehead, eyed the red circles on his cheeks and the downy tufts in the curve of his neck and under his arms. Attilles smiled and puffed so his crest stood tall, opening his arms to let his wingspan unfold. He whistled softly, and I caught the melody and added my measure to it.
From my own crest, I removed a feather, short and milky gray. He ran his fingers over it, brushed it across his lips, and then placed it in the pouch around his neck.
I took a few steps toward the cliff’s edge and dove, catching myself mid-air and wheeling up so the ridge was below me. Attilles rose after me, a broad smile on his face. We circled farther and farther from the roost, our wingtips brushing, with me in the lead letting Attilles lead me. When the air was ours alone, he hooked an arm around my waist and spun me to him. The skin of his chest was hot against mine, his mouth open and panting slightly from the chase. Our wings beat the same rhythm.
“You honor me, Weaver,” he whispered, and we sank into each other’s kiss.
The earth comes tumbling to meet me and I jerk out of my flying dream in time to save myself. The fires of the leggers’ camp are behind me now, but a haze remains in the air. Ahead are skeletal trees, blackened on razed earth. Beyond that, I see water. I know Kouhmar is a lakeside roost. There is no sign of huts or nests. The ground smokes and smolders in places. Black heaps are all that remain of the civilization.
With my last strength, I fly to the lake and land on the beach, collapsing into the mixture of sand and ashes. My wings and legs tremble, and I cough in the thick air, heaving emptily into the dust.
I knew Attilles was going to war, but not to his death. I thought his seeing dreams would have given him warning…
For a long time, I lay in the cinders. When I finally get to my feet, I search the remains of the roost for a sign of Attilles. There are piles of burnt bones and feathers everywhere, but none that I can identify. I can’t feel his soul.
At midday, I walk out into the lake, submerging myself completely. I let the water take the grime and despair from me. The evening is for drying, for putting every feather back into place, and for waiting for the leggers to return to their filthy sleep.
When the first stars come out, I raise my wings again, facing north. I’ll be a weaver again, and I’ll have to take in the hen, Threnody. Attilles’ spirit calls from Ullo, from the fledgling he left to Threnody, to me.
Check in at 11am, 1pm, and 3pm for additional Cimmerween stories, and on Friday for Anne’s No Rules post.
Join us next month when we post four more tales on a new prompt.