Bonds Unbroken Ch. 02byCia81©
"You called for me, Velaku?"
Mishtar was a strong warrior, his form slim like all bird Carthera but with long, lean muscles cording his body and magnificent black and brown wings held proudly behind him. He was the epitome of our warriors, a Carthera most worthy of respect. He had risen through the ranks quickly after he mated and became the leader for the Falcons at just twenty six, younger than any before him. I had always looked up to him as the Falcon I wanted to be.
Today, he was dressed in black jeans and a special leather jerkin that left his wings free to move behind him. He was armed; the attack on my father had the clans on high alert. His chest was crossed by blades and throwing stars to use from his preferred place to attack; flying above his enemies to rain down death from the skies.
"My father was murdered by a lynx Carthera working with humans," I said bitterly, my rage burning brighter just from saying the words. I fought to control my anger, digging my new talons into my legs in an attempt to pull me away from the urge to enter hunting mode and kill everyone in my way until my father's murderers lay dead before me.
Mishtar eyed my wings twitching behind me. The snowy white wings arched behind my head and the feathers made a ruffling noise as I fought to keep them folded.
"Are these local humans?" Mishtar asked fiercely. "Do you know who betrayed your father? Was it one of the local Lynx pack?"
"I'm not sure."
The humans that lived nearby were our allies; we worked with them to improve the life of the Carthera in their society, not against them. In the past we had to hide who we were and live on the fringes in game preserves or hidden eyries. That had all changed in the last generation. Humans and Carthera in our region had found a way to make peace. The thought that some of the men that my father had met with, that he had helped, and been helped by in return, was enough made me sick.
That a member of the local Lynx clan would go against my father, the leader of all Carthera in our region, would be even more unthinkable.
We were not animals but we obeyed a hierarchy that was as instinctual as our animal brethren. In nature, a falcon would not defeat a lynx but the benefit of a human brain mixed with the advantage our wings gave us in battle made the Falcon Clan the deadliest of our kind. We could not deny all aspects of our nature even as we became more civilized. Fights for power, position, for land, had always been our way but things were slowly changing.
Obviously someone was trying to stage a coup of some sort to overthrow my father's leadership of the local Carthera clans. There had been signs of something big happening that my father had hid from the Council, the clan leaders that made up his advisors. I knew more than my mother supposed, my father having begun my instruction some time before his death. I thought I was prepared for whatever we faced but I never expected my father to die.
I hadn't known about the overwhelming surge of hormones that would hit me when my wings came out though. I had no way of knowing if every newly transformed Falcon felt this way and I was too afraid to ask. Carthera transform when they mate, during a complex ceremony held in front of the clan. My transformation occurred with no warning, no mating. I was a freak and what if this rage was a sign to others that I was unfit for leadership?
I couldn't let my father's plans fail.
It was hard; I could barely stop the killing rage from overtaking me from moment to moment. I struggled with myself to keep it out of my voice but I would not fail my father or our people. I would keep it together.
I would save my people no matter what the cost was to me personally.
"I need you and your wing squad to find them. It won't be easy, this happened far from here, on the outskirts of our territory near southern Oregon. Find out who killed my father and bring them to me if you can. I will be satisfied with their deaths but I need much more information than I have. Someone is behind all this, directing the troubles that have been cropping up all over our land. My father told me this before he left.
"That... That is why he was traveling, trying to find out who was behind the attacks when he was killed."
My voice rose in volume as I stood up, pounding my fist on the desk in front of me. "I want answers. I want retribution. I want their deaths!"
I had to stop. I was breathing hard as I closed my eyes and bowed my head, fighting the urge to dig my talons into the beautifully carved desk that my father had sat at for so many years but would never sit at again. I heard the sound of a fist striking a strong chest.
I looked up, opening my eyes to see Mishtar bowed before me, honoring me even though he was a seasoned warrior and leader of the Falcons and I nothing but an untrained boy.
"Your father trained me himself; I will not let his memory down. I swear the Falcons will not rest until we have the answers you seek." His face was hard as he swore his oath, a deadly promise. I knew he would avenge my father as I couldn't even as I struggled with my desire to be the one who led the attack against our enemies.
I stared into his eyes, at the promise burning so fiercely, then returned his salute. I watched silently as he walked away.
He needed no more orders than I gave him. Mishtar would track down all the intel available and then plan his next moves without any need of more orders for me. I sank down in the chair and thought of all the decisions my father made in this room, all the times he sent men off on dangerous missions. It was hard to trust that Mishtar would know the best way to handle the investigation but I had to let him do it his own way.
My father had ruled over the many groups of Carthera that owed him allegiance and lived in the territory he claimed and protected. He always told me to issues as few orders as possible; the more you told a person what to do and how to do it the more you would have to. I held those treasured bits of advice already shared but knew I had lost the bulk of my father's wisdom with his death. My sorrow swelled and I stood up abruptly, unable to sit at his place any longer. I sought out my mother.
The remainder of my evening was spent with her, sharing our memories of my father and tears to lessened the sadness of his passing. The next day would be the formal death ceremony for our clan; all those who lived in our eyrie would attend. There was no reason to delay the ceremony, even though we didn't have his body, but I wanted to hold off on an enclave of the Carthera leaders to give formal announcement of death. I couldn't tell them what I didn't know until I had heard back from Mishtar. So many questions were still unanswered.
Full of anger and pain, I didn't sleep at all that night.
The fledglings that I had known all my life held back from me at the ceremony. I was no longer one of them, though not much bigger in form yet. My wings seemed larger by comparison to my slim and sleek body than the other youth I stood among. Their unusual coloring, the stark white and red, stood out among the wings of the men of our tribe, most of which were rich browns, yellows, and blacks like our bird cousins.
I stood on the edge of the cliff where I had mourned my father alone just two days before and watched the flight of the women of our tribe as they looped and danced in the air celebrating the life that my father lived. The men provided the beat with their feet before launching into the air, swirling and diving among the lighter colors of the women. The youth and younglings kept stomping and joined in with a low chant.
Above it all rose the keening call of my mother as she sang the ululating death song of our tribe. She held the final note until all the dancers had set down, her body still hovering above the ground with her head thrown back to the sky. Wings settled as the last note echoed into a deep silence as she finally ended the song to honor my father. She slowly drifted to the ground, crumpling to her knees. I knelt next to her and wrapped her in my arms as her tears silently flowed down her cheeks.
One by one the people of our tribe came and touched us, soothing gestures of love and comfort, reminding us we weren't alone, that our nest mate was gone but we remained firmly in the land of the living. We were still connected to our clan. When the last person left, we still sat together rocking with our eyes closed. It was some time later before my mother's tears finally slowed and came to a shuddery halt. I hugged her as tight as I could and she hugged me back in an equally fierce grip before finally before sitting up and wiping her eyes.
"Let's go home, Velaku."
Keeping our arms around each other, we slowly walked to our house on the center ledge. We spent the day speaking softly of my father again, remembering the love and protection he had shared so freely. I went to bed and fell into a deep sleep, exhausted from lack of sleep and the catharsis of the ceremony.
I woke up whimpering in terror. My dream had returned. I didn't scream this time though; my fear was too great for that. I had been in locked in a pitch black darkness, feeling my body twist and change, and then an agonizing pain in my back and sides. My hands shook and I whimpered as I moved. I hurt even now.
What was happening to me?
The next day gave me an odd feeling of dichotomy. People returned to the normal routine their jobs and their lives even though mine felt like it was destroyed. The fledglings were gathered on the grassy lawn for their Jintue lesson before it was time to leave for class. We had integrated into the public school system some years before I entered grade school and quickly found that our smaller size often made bullies think they could prey on us.
But we were Carthera and not weak.
From almost the first moment we could walk we were taught Jintue. It was a fighting style specifically suited to our smaller, lighter bodies. We moved fast, attacking and blurring away before returning to hit the next weak point until our larger prey was down. Other Carthera came close to our speed but none truly matched it. Coupled with our wings and talons after we matured, we were a force like no other. The humans quickly came to know this and their children began to respect our fledglings and the bullying mostly stopped.
But still we trained.
At the same time that the fledglings learned ground maneuvers, the youths trained at flying and weapons under the tutelage of several retired members of the Falcons. They called out instructions and orders to the pairs learning to fly together in loud voices. This was where the Jintue lessons became the basis of the true fighting style of our clans. The youths learned to dive through the air to strike and then dart away; their body, wings, and weapons a harmonious blend that brought death to those who tried to strike or stand against it. Each youth trained with their mate, learned to fight with them, and how to protect each other.
It was to this area of the training field I made my way that strange morning, sent away by the fledgling instructor.
"Velaku!" An older man with grizzled hair and pale brown wings approached me slowly. Dorvan was a very old friend of my father's. I trusted him like I trust no other in our clan. "You are here to train?"
"Yes. I am... uncomfortable in my new form and find myself quickly changing." My pants had been tight this morning and a bit short. My jerkin had no longer closed over my chest and stomach. My muscles were much more defined, if still small. The changes brought about by my transformation were rapidly maturing my body and mind but the effects were not instant. I tugged on my leather jerkin again.
"I need to learn to use these too," I said, pointing at my wings. I had longed to fly my whole life, all fledglings did. I just wished...
"I've just the partner for you, Ningaven's mate is ill today. You can partner with her."
Ningaven was a friend, though a few years older than me. She had found her mate a few months before. I nodded my agreement as I fit on my wrist and ankle sheaths. They held only dull practice blades since the first thing every youth had to learn was how to fly without falling on their butt. I thought I was prepared for that but Ningaven and Dorvan taught me differently. Ningaven's high ringing laugh pealed out of her mouth when I first tried to take off. I forgot to close my eyes and the dirt kicked up by my wings blinded me.
I scowled and tried again, remembering to close my eyes until I got a set of eye covers. My wings swept down, once, twice, and I lifted into the air. I thought I was secure so I tried to turn around to give her a smug look. My right wing didn't beat properly and I ended up almost on my side in the air. I panicked and my wings fluttered wildly before I crashed back onto the ground to land in a twisted heap.
I groaned, ignoring her giggles as I flopped over onto my stomach and gave my tender wings a shake.
"Laugh it up, Ningaven."
"Oh, I will," she managed to squeeze out in between fits of laughter. She smiled at me. "Don't worry, Tallsin and I both tumbled the first time we tried to fly too." Ningaven managed to stop laughing finally but her eyes still twinkled in amusement as she grinned at me.
"We made the same mistake. You can't hover that low to the ground unless you have a lot more momentum built up. Up higher you have the air currents to glide on; they help keep you from getting too tired or falling straight down when you lose the beat.
C'mon, I'll show you!" She took a few steps away from me, stretching out her wings.
I stood up and watched her take off. I could see the muscles in her lean legs flex and bunch before she gave a leap and shot into the air rising upward by powerful thrusts of her gray and black wings. She rose quickly before swooping back down toward me.
"What are you waiting for, come on! Fly!"
I bent my knees and shoved hard against the earth, leaving its support for the freedom of the skies. This time I kept going until I felt the warm winds buffet me. I was grinning from the excitement of my first real flight. Every fledgling dreamed of the day he found his mate and got his wings. I loved the feeling of flying but felt the lack of a mate as I took a few moments to look at the pairs around me before Ningaven called over to me.
"Open up your wings a bit more and catch this updraft."
She soared away and I beat my wings up and down, stretching them wide to catch the thrust of a warm updraft send me shooting after her. I quickly caught up to her before she swooped away again, whooping and laughing. I mimicked her movements, my body twisting and dipping along the constantly shifting winds, reaching out and snagging a handful of her jerkin before I darted away.
We played tag in the air and I quickly learned how to shift my wings and body to maneuver through the skies. In the air, there was a freedom of body that I had never really been able to come close to imagining my daydreaming of mating and transformation.
"Alright you two, time to stop playing around. Let's put him through the beginning exercises, Ningaven," Dorvan bellowed from the ground.
We stopped our game and hovered obediently about thirty feet up in the air. I was breathing hard but quickly recovered.
"Do you remember the first balance exercise from Jintue?" Ningaven asked.
I held out my hands, palms flat and facing her. Ningaven put her hands against mine and then gave a great beat of her wings to shove against me. I instantly lost contact with her hands, unable to flow backward gracefully with her forward movement. It took a moment of beating my wings quickly to regain control.
"Huh, that's a lot harder up here," I said with a frown.
"Try again!" Dorvan called.
When the same thing happened he yelled up at us, "Again, again!" until I began to learn to adjust my wings and flow backwards with the force Ningaven exerted without letting our hands lose contact. Soon I was pressing back against her in return, following her as she gave gracefully before coming to a stop, with our hands still resting palm to palm.
"Good! Balance is the key when fighting in the air. You can't do the throws and body jabs that you learned for combat on the ground but there is much else to learn," Dorvan said in a pleased voice.
He continued to put us through the basic workout I had seen the youths do each day long past the normal time, keeping us working until the sun rose high in the sky. I wasn't going to school where my transformation and hormones would be a dangerous mixed with the humans.
Ningaven stayed to train with me, her mate unable to escort her to college. Carthera males were very protective of our females. By the time we were permitted to land I was trembling and panting with exhaustion. I didn't feel too bad about my condition though; Ningaven looked a little worse for the wear too.
"Go, eat some lunch and rest. I am sure Tallsin is wondering when you are going to show up, Ningaven. Velaku, come back this afternoon at three; I will be available then for the private instruction you requested."
"Bye, Velaku." Ningaven waved at me over her shoulder. She was already walking away to find Tallsin. Newly mated couples did not spend much time apart.
"Thanks Ningaven!" I waved back to her and then turned to the exacting instructor who had pushed me so hard all morning.
I turned back to my instructor. "Thank you Dorvan, I just feel that I need to learn as much as I can as fast as I can."
Dorvan clasped me on the shoulder.
"I understand. Your father would be very proud of you, I am. Remember, three o'clock. You won't like what happens if you are late."
I nodded, somber at the mention of my father. I would avenge him, no matter how much work I had to do. I had no mate and the Carthera council would not convene for another two months unless I called an emergency session. Nothing else mattered but training and finding his killers.