Begin Again: Part One
The green Draik breaks through the forest, leaping out from between two trees. She dashes down the slope, long wings billowing up from the wind of her dash. She runs on all fours, having the lithe limbs to do so. Her small backpack bounces with every step. Grass, as far as the eye can see, ripples in a soft breeze all around her, creating a striped, wavy landscape.
She crests a hill and begins descending, not losing an ounce of her energy. Now the field is laced with perfect dandelions all around, and not ordinary ones, but ones with stems as big around as the her claws, and feathery blooms that form perfect spheres the size of small sports balls.
She stops and looks around her. Open sunlight falls all around her, golden rays warming her skin.
With a ready smile, she pulls a single dandelion from the hillside.
The Draik inhales, careful not to be creating fire, and lets the breath out. The seeds of the dandelion file out and weave into the air in a graceful line, drifting as though they are weightless. The wind stirs up and helps the Draik as she keeps blowing, slowly turning the flower until the stem is barren.
She is so caught up in the moment that she forgets all her troubles: the favors she was sent on by the people of her village. Not knowing where she came from, or who her family is. All the long nights she sat outside, staring up at the stars, wondering if any of them were helping her or if she really was all on her own.
Except… maybe she forgot them rather literally. She stands, staring up at the blue sky, suddenly unsure of why she is there, where her home is, or who she is. She frowns. She feels like she has a million memories waiting to be called upon, but as she attempts to bring each one to mind, it immediately slips away. She clutches her head in frustration, trying to remember anything, anything at all… and then she comes to the slow, horrifying realization that her mind is now utterly, gapingly empty, but for the sole memory of blowing her memories away.
She stands still for several shocked minutes, nervously folding and curling the dandelion stem until it is mangled and dripping with chlorophyll. Finally, she falls onto her knees with a frustrated whine, and buries her head in her hands.
She realizes that she’s wearing a backpack. Eagerly, she slips it off her shoulders, unzips the top, and reaches in.
She unpacks the whole bag, pulling out item after item. A cheap compass. A map of snowy mountains and grassy terrain. One bottle of water. A Lupe tag necklace with the name Lukirri engraved on the tag, and a metal charm with aged green feathers also dangling from it.
“Better than nothing, but only just,” she mumbles. She glares, fixedly, down at the Lupe tag necklace, before angrily slipping it around her neck. “I had better be Lukirri. Or whoever the real Lukirri is will pay for confusing me so much. Imagine, someone else thinking they have your name, for days! Weeks! Months, even!”
Lukirri packs the rest of the things into her backpack and puts it back on. Time to start over. She never asked to start over. All she wanted to do was blow on a dandelion – well, probably some other things too, but she doesn’t even know what they are.
Lukirri sighs. She knows the first thing she has to find. Somewhere flat – really, really flat – to set down her compass so she can get herself coordinated. She glances about. Nothing but rolling hills and long, slanted fields all around.
This will take awhile.
Lukirri heads back into the woods and comes to an abandoned campsite. A rusted picnic table. A cracking concrete platform covered in moss. Sunlight filters calmly through the trees.
She’s coming to terms with this. She has no memories of bad. No memories of good either, but she’d rather see it as a chance to make only good memories, rather than only bad ones. Still pondering this, she sets down her compass on her map, and coordinates her feelings along with her map.
There’s just one spot on the map supposed to be dense forest like this. Lukirri supposes she might as well assume she’s in that forest. No point in thinking otherwise. There are villages dotted around the Eastern hills. Lukirri decides that she’ll aim for one of those. There’s no chance she’ll come to her hometown or finding anyone she knows, but for now, all she needs is help. She climbs a tree, spreads her wings, and begins to soar East. It’s not so far away.
As the sun goes down, Lukirri lands in the crook of a soft hill. She’s spent the afternoon flying and resting and flying and resting and going mad from the solitude. She’s ready to cry just because she’s tired and hungry and ready to give up.
Instead, she gives one last look to the sunset-bathed hills before her, curls up in the grass, and closes her eyes.
She feels better in the morning.
Not by much, but it’s something. She sets down her compass as flat as she can and finds East. She knows it might be thrown off, because it’s not totally flat, but she doesn’t care. She’s doing as much as she can.
The Draik trods forth, head sinking low. Her brain is beginning to go numb. She needs people, darn it, not grass and dandelions. She needs ears to hear her voice, and voices to hear her problems.
She doesn’t just need help. She needs life.
This continues on for hours. Sometimes she gets on her hind legs and watches the fields ripple with the wind, but it nauseates her now, and she gets back on all fours. She uses a wing to shield herself from the sun, but she can’t hold her wing like that for very long while she’s walking. She slowly downs her one water bottle over the course of the day, and sucks it so that it crumples inwards, inhaling every last drop.
At last, she collapses. She sees one last thing before all fades to black: a village of tents.
She hears one last thing, too. Voices.
With a smile, she passes out.
She awakens in a bed of cushions nearby an open fire. She glances upwards, confused, and meets the face of a snowy Vandagyre.
The Vandagyre smiles in greeting, and Lukirri is broken from her trance with relief.
“Oh, thank Fyora! I was going insane!”
With a chuckle, the Vandagyre leans her head back wistfully. “It seems rather unusual to find someone travelling all alone, so ill-prepared.”
“I don’t remember what I was thinking when I prepared myself – I barely remember anything at all!” Lukirri explains. She fingers her Lupe tag. “I’m lucky to even know my name!”
The Vandagyre raises a feathered eyebrow. “Which is…?”
“Lukirri,” answers Lukirri breathlessly. “I lost my memories yesterday.”
“I’m Flurry,” the Vandagyre says. “Amnesiac? That sounds absolutely classic.”
“In a field, to boot,” Lukirri adds.
She looks around. Other Vandagyre are bustling to and fro their tents. A few are approaching Lukirri.
“I-I need help,” she says. Suddenly feeling vulnerable, she adds, “I… I have amnesia…”
Lukirri feels a feathered paw on her shoulder. “We have a fortune teller. He might be able to tell you something.”
Lukirri nods. She’s not sure why, but she feels tears springing to her eyes. With a sniff, she stops herself.
“Alright. Take me to your fortune teller.”
The snowy Vandagyre points Lukirri towards a dark blue Vandagyre taking down a tent. “He’s doing work?” Lukirri asks cluelessly. “I thought he’d be meditating inside the tent or something…”
Flurry elbows her and motions for her to be quiet. Lukirri nods, cheeks flushing that she said something like that out loud.
The blue Vandagyre glances up. Flurry approaches him and whispers in his ear; he nods, grabs Lukirri’s shoulder, and pulls her back to the campfire.
“I’ve only got ancient Vandagyre fortune-telling techniques,” he explains. “None of this fancy stuff the Haunted Woods has, I hear.”
“Are you mysterious?” Lukirri asks.
“No, not at all.” The Vandagyre smiles. “I’m just one of our clan’s older brothers – that’s a young leader, just so you know – who knows some of this stuff. I wouldn’t even be leaving our home in the mountains with these others, but they wanted to have a fortune teller.”
He grabs a log from the fire and smears ashes in front of where Lukirri sits.
“Put your hand there. No, wait – your necklace would work better.”
Lukirri takes off her necklace and drops it in the ashes. The fortune teller stands over it, puts his fists together, and begins to trill ominously. Lukirri steps back, somewhat awestruck, as he goes into a fit of hooting.
The ashes burst into new fire and burn furiously for several long seconds. All of a sudden it seems to be nighttime, the whole world a void but for the flame roaring and whistling and rising deep into the sky before her.
She hears the fortune teller’s husky voice: “The hand that does is sometimes the only thing that will undo.”
And then it’s over. Nobody else seemed to have seen the same. Without a doubt, it was the most curious thing Lukirri has experienced so far: the sensation of night when it was really day.
The fortune teller stoops to the fire and pulls something out. It’s the necklace, seemingly the same as before. The Vandagyre looks away as he hands it to Lukirri. “What is written is for you alone.” From his nonchalant manner, Lukirri thinks he may not have been aware of any of it.
Lukirri takes the necklace. Lukirri. She flips it over.
Your memories lie deep in the mountains.
She looks up and the fortune teller is walking away. “Thank you!” she calls. He doesn’t hear.
Lukirri reads it again and tucks the necklace away in her bag. “Flurry!” she yells.
The snowy Vandagyre appears around the corner, running. “Lukirri! What?”
“I’m going to the mountains.” Lukirri is resolute. “Away from you all, since I can at least remember that you all are from these mountains. Is there any help you would be willing to offer me before I go?”
Flurry thinks for a long moment.
“Yes,” she says, “I think we can help you.”
To be continued…