“Gemma, lift!” Grace’s voice cuts me from somewhere near sleep. I thank the stars for that, because the sea is heavy on my flight feathers, misting my face with cold and salt. She swoops down to catch me in her wake and drag me up, away from the surf.
“You scared me to death,” she says. I laugh, though it’s not funny. “Only half a mile to go, looks like.”
“Where are we going?” My voice falls to the sea like lead. Grace looks over her shoulder at me and drags the air with her wings, slowing to let me catch up. She doesn’t answer, just taps me with her primaries as she flies. The sun is an idea on the horizon, spitting pastel pink on the trees we fly for. Her feathers are ash and blue in the waning dark, and I want to curl up next to her and smolder forever.
We touch down on sand that leads to woods, hiding our wings from the unknown. A river narrows into the woods, bubbling like questions. We find a hollow near the river, and I’m asleep before she can kiss me goodnight.
Pounding wakes me, rhythmic and fast.
Hooves. I reach out, catching nothing but leaves. Panic swells hot in my chest.
“I hear it,” she says above me, tree branches obscuring her. “Come up here.”
I reach her branch and let the leaves envelop me. The pounding shakes our trees, but slows.
“Centaurs,” I say. Her eyes are widen. “We’re in Omnia.” We traded the abuse of one land for another, for all the talk of Omnia is of the death in their mines and their king’s dirty dealings with other lands.
These men wear his crest. They’re formidable Percherons, all hulking muscle and dappled gray. A pair of them pull a cart while two more guard the flanks.
“Stop here,” one says. “I want to check her.”
“She was stupid to run,” another laughs. A steel centaur pulls a tarp off the cart, and my skin prickles. What I thought was cargo is one of their own, bound and gagged. Her midnight coat fades into a torso that’s more bruises than skin.”He won’t have her for a daughter. I hear the wolves want her as a pet and are willing to pay.”
“Maybe we could play with her first.” They laugh again, and I can’t see straight.
Grace’s nails dig into my arm as her wings spring from her back, rustling leaves. Her eyes scream injustice. I know that look on her face, I saw it through the bars of my own prison on Maderas. I let my wings fall from my back, and I’m proud of her. There’s good in the killer and firebringer our land made us out to be.
A twig snaps. A centaur girl below us is golden and fierce in the morning light. She trembles, eyes focused on the cart. Her body screams in a silent way and I know her, too. She is us.
I jump from my perch and land soft next to her. Grace shadows me, hands telling and soft on my hips. The Halflinger girl doesn’t flinch, but takes us in with knowing glances.
“Is she yours?” I whisper.
She nods, fire in her eyes.
Sparks fly from my fingertips. “Let’s go get her.”
A/N: Happy April Fools! I hope you enjoyed our mash-ups. We were inspired by last month’s Craft Discussion: World Building.