With Broken Wings
This was an odd sensation, to be sure. Flying, now that was familiar territory. Oh, how he could fly! He could swoop and soar, he could glide and dive, he could perform intricate dances with the wind. That feeling, when he was the only one in the sky and the ground was small and unreal below him, and all he could hear was the whisper of the wind as it caressed his fur, was what he lived for and what he was defined by. Falling, though... he had experienced it before, of course - how could one learn without making mistakes? - and always there was that sense of barely contained panic, of being helpless, and, of course, the fear, rising in his throat until he felt like screaming with the horror of it all. The ground was close now, almost close enough for him to make out detail, and the trees were jagged dark shapes against the dun-coloured ground. The faller suppressed a groan - of all the places to land...
There was a brief sense of pain, then nothing.
Tomeo was the one who saw it. He was carving out a pumpkin with his knife when he spotted the flying shape, barely more than a speck, silhouetted against the moon. He had was so startled that his grip on the knife slipped, giving him a nasty gash on his left paw.
The Green Kyrii swore under his breath and looked around for something to use as a bandage. He shouldn't have been so startled; this was the Haunted Woods after all, and on Halloween night at that. Things like that flying speck were normal around here.
Like that flying speck which appeared to be falling swiftly through the air and looked like it might land within a quarter mile of the little village. That mysterious, somewhat spooky little speck... Tomeo swallowed loudly and mentally chided himself. Psyching himself wasn't going to help matters. He pulled his pocket handkerchief out of his jacket pocket, wincing as a drop of blood landed on the expensive material. The Haunted Woods dweller wrapped the handkerchief tightly around his paw, pulling the knot closed with his teeth. There. Those who lived in this place were tough; it wouldn't take long for the scratch to heal.
He yelped and whipped around, to find his best friend Bram, a Starry Yurble, raising his eyebrows at the Kyrii. Tomeo flushed and laughed sheepishly.
"Er, sorry... I'm just a bit on edge right now," he apologized.
"Hmn." Bram surveyed him, then laughed. "Well, at least you have a sense of occasion!" He gestured broadly at the dark night. It was clear; with no clouds to block them, the stars burned down upon the world. The air was crisp and bracingly cold. When Tomeo breathed out, the air crystalised in front of him.
"I suppose..." Tomeo's laugh was a little forced. His friend noticed.
The Kyrii cringed at his choice of words. "Well..." He quickly explained about the speck he'd seen.
Bram's eyebrows raised further and he performed a little hopping dance. "Mysterious witch shapes on Halloween! Spoooky..."
"I'm being serious," Tomeo told him curtly. The Yurble sighed.
"Well, if you insist, I suppose we'd better go and look for this mysterious shape, hadn't we!" The glee in his voice was evident.
Tomeo gave him a withering look. "You're like an overgrown child sometimes, you know," he teased. Bram grinned.
"I do my best." He waved the small gas lantern he had brought, grinning. "Come on!"
"Just a minute." The Kyrii picked up his lantern from the hay bale where he had left it. He paused, chewing his lip, then made a swift decision and thrust his knife into his belt.
"Just in case our mysterious flyer turns out to be an aleron," he joked, though the fear behind his words was plain to see.
Bram's eyes widened almost imperceptibly. Aleron was Woods slang for winged one. The name had come to be associated with the worst kinds of superstition, and aleron were feared throughout the Woods. Rumour had it that they had no morals, no ethics, no pity and no mercy, but that they were intelligent and shrewd, and were deadly in battle, but could not be harmed, and were as insubstantial as the wind itself. As was his way, the Yurble laughed it off.
"Guess I'll be needing this then," he said with false brightness, and he pulled a pitchfork out of the hay bale. Tomeo nodded tersely, and they set off in the direction where Tomeo thought the shape had fallen.
Zeekaye blinked his eyes open, wincing as all his pain came rushing back. He cautiously tried to move each part of his body to see if anything was broken. Legs - check. Feet - yup. Toes - two of them broken on his right foot where he must have smashed into a tree branch or something, he'd be limping for a while. Wings... as the Korbat tentatively twitched a wing, he was unable to stop himself from groaning. The pain from even that slight movement made him waver on the edge of consciousness. And that was when the two villagemen appeared.
Zeekaye looked at them and tried to take a step forward, holding his hands up to signify peaceful intentions, but his knee gave way underneath him and he stumbled.
"Great," he muttered. "Must be spra -"
He stopped abruptly, because the tines of a pitchfork were pressing painfully against his chest.
"Calm down," he said quietly, trying to keep calm himself, but his voice came out hoarse and the words were unrecognizable as civilised speech. He raised a hand to his mouth, flinching at the pain his wings sent him, and felt a trickle of blood in the corner of his mouth.
"I feel bad, but not bad enough for internal bleeding," he tried to say. "So that's something..."
He stopped again, because the other stranger had produced a knife and was holding it out in front of him. His paw was shaking, but the knife was sharp.
"Hey, hey. Easy there," Zeekaye slurred. Part of his brain realized that it wasn't functioning properly. Shock, then, or trauma... maybe concussion? His head certainly felt sore enough. Normally the Korbat would have been able to get out of this situation with ease, but he was injured. And tonight was Halloween. To his bewildered brain, that seemed to cinch the matter.
"I've got to get out of here," he groaned. The Yurble holding the pitchfork pressed it harder, and then, for the first time, spoke.
"Are you an aleron?" he demanded sharply, his voice tight with fear.
Zeekaye blinked with confusion. "Aleron...?"
"Winged demon," clarified the other. "And... you look like a demon."
Zeekaye sighed. Everywhere he went, he had this problem. It wasn't entirely unwarranted, he'd admit. The Darigan Korbat had a gaunt frame, and his wings were huge and skeletal. His fangs were sharp, and his ears raised him even taller than he already was. At home he generally wore glasses, but that was just for appearances, as his eerie golden-amber eyes had perfect vision. The spiked tail and horns probably didn't help either.
Zeekaye realized what the foul taste in his mouth was, and spat out a clump of dirt, blood and leaves. He rotated his jaw a couple of times. His gums felt like they might be bleeding, but he could handle that.
"I'm not a demon," he said, and smiled as he heard his normal voice. The Kyrii took a step back; he must have thought that Zeekaye was baring his fangs at him. The Yurble, however, took a step forwards, which meant that Zeekaye had to back away if he didn't want to be impaled.
"Drop the stupid pitchfork already!" Zeekaye hissed, beginning to get annoyed. He fixed the Yurble with a baleful golden stare, and was gratified to see the pitchfork fall to the ground from nerveless hands.
"His eyes," Bram said in a petrified whisper. Tomeo looked into the aleron's eyes and then immediately looked away, scared. The stranger had a strong gaze.
Zeekaye flicked his ears to catch the Yurble's whisper, then winced. He felt his shell-shaped ears cautiously. There was a long scrape down his left ear, running from the tip to the base. Nothing serious, fortunately. Hearing was very important to a Korbat.
"Is there any part of me that isn't bleeding?" he sighed, then glanced up at the two Woodsmen. "Look, I'm not an aloren or whatever. I'm just an Aviant... which I see you haven't heard of... great. Well, we pretty much try our best to keep order in the skies, see? I'm not a bad guy." He rubbed the tips of his horns reflectively. "Unless you get me mad, of course." He sighed again at their expressions. "It was a joke, for Fyora's sake. Doesn't anyone have a sense of humour around here?" He trailed off. The Kyrii was looking at him intently, and this time he didn't look away.
"Give me your word of honour that you mean us no harm," he said seriously.
Zeekaye, mindful of the pitchfork, inclined his head. "On my honour."
"Okie-doke then." The Kyrii sheathed his knife in a thoughtful manner. "We'd better get you some medical help. And then do you want to help me carve some pumpkins?"
Zeekaye laughed. The sound was welcome to him; despite himself, he had begun to loathe the perpetually silent Woods. "Why ever not." The tall Aviant glanced up at the sky. Even with his injured ear, he could hear the beat of wings. Somewhere up there, his enemy was waiting, but Zeekaye couldn't do anything in his injured state. "I don't have any other plans for now," Zeekaye murmured, and let a grim smile play over his features.
For now. Because right now, it was Halloween, and he should have respected that.