Pell crouched on the railing of the watchtower, watching the sails grow large on the horizon. His legs were cramping but his training wouldn’t allow him to stand and stretch the muscles, wouldn’t allow him to silhouette his body against the sky and make himself an easy target. Eventually, as the winds of the ancestors drove the ship towards land, he eased himself down to stand more naturally behind the railing.
The watchtower was midway up the side of the mountain that dominated the north end of this island. Pell had been to a few of the other islands in his life and he maintained the opinion that this island, the one he had grown up on, was by far superior to all of the rest. About a hundred feet up-slope from the watchtower the dense jungle vegetation began to give way to the bare rocks that were fringed with lichen and the ice crowned peaks above that.
Pell took out his dagger and began honing the edge on his whetstone, breathing thanks to the spirits and the gods for the steel and the fire that had gone into its forging. It was a good dagger, and sharp, all of his weapons were sharp. The two long knives strapped to his waist were sharp enough to shave with and his bow and arrows were masterworks.
The sun broke through the trees behind the watchtower and he spread his wings to warm them, giving thanks to the gods for sunlight. Then he took a moment to appreciate the feel of the slight breeze over his feathers and admire his wings. It wasn’t that he was vain, though all of his people are somewhat vain by nature, it was just that Pell was the fastest, strongest and most skillful flyer of all his people and he knew it. He had proved it in competition again and again. This made him one of the most desirable males in all of the islands, which he also knew very well.
Pell looked back out to sea and frowned at the ship. The ancestors were smiling on it for it was approaching the island very fast. It had not foundered on any of the reefs that had so far kept all other curious ships away from the islands. Even the descendents seemed to approve of the ship for the weather, though cloudy, was calm and there were no storms on the horizon. The gods themselves illuminated the ship in a shaft of sunlight breaking through the clouds.
Even as he pondered this, the watchtower was enveloped in a cloud and the ship lost from his sight. Pell snarled and jammed the dagger back into its sheath. Perhaps the Powers were conspiring to keep him from approaching the ship, perhaps if he flew closer to investigate he would die, he no longer cared. No ship had ever before dared to sail this close to his home. He flexed his wings once and then leapt into the air, swooping slightly to gain speed and then catching a thermal to rise above the clouds.
Now Pell was in his element, the moisture of the cloud beaded on his feathers and slid off as he flew. His blood rushed in his veins as he circled, flapped occasionally and gained altitude. Soon enough he broke out above the clouds and felt the gods shining on his back, warming him even as the ancestors chilled him with the wind of his passage.
He decided to fly out over the ship and try to get a look at the people aboard. He would not go close enough for them to shoot at him and once he had an idea of what manner of people were sailing toward his home he would go back and report. They would probably rouse the fighting wings and go to investigate more closely.
Pell slid back down beneath the clouds and was somewhat disappointed to see that the ship had not run into trouble while he was above the clouds. He kept to the underbelly of the clouds, keeping himself half concealed within them as he peered down at the vessel. There were a number of people in sight, all of who appeared to be of the species the lore-masters named Elf. Pell had never seen an elf before, but they matched the description he had heard as a boy. None of them appeared to be armed but that was always a possibility, even he knew how to conceal a weapon.
When he felt he had seen enough he banked toward land and spiraled up into the clouds. He passed above his watchtower even as the clouds began to break up and as he flew into earshot of home he pulled his horn from his belt and sounded the alert.
- ► 2005 (18)