Saturday, 2 June 2018

Episode III - III Thrown from the Nest (Shard I)

On Authroc's Wing

Thrown from the Nest
(Shard I)

The cooling afternoon winds pulled at the robes and scarves covering Leiros’ body as he plummeted through the sky. The air rushed at him with a soft howl that lulled him into a sense of serene comfort despite the bouts of vertigo assaulting him from the constant dives and rises Qathalla sent the both of them into. A feeling of growing moisture and tingling energy was beginning to build up from the growing storm-clouds far above, making Leiros’ every heartbeat pitch a little faster with reverent anticipation.

With a push from the leather guards along Qathalla’s immense back, Leiros let his body float a few inches above the black feathers of his spirit-mount. The pull of the world-plane’s gravity sent him flying as the great authroc plummeted into a hard dive. The sensation of the world inverted for a few moments as Leiros fell upward with his companion. He looked up to see the seas of sand and great plateaus of rock eat up the sky above him, while below his feet was a sea of clouds and heavens.

The wind rushing against him impacted the hardened scarves he had wrapped against his face, allowing only his stinging eyes any exposure. His gray robes billowed against his body causing drag as he began to fall toward the terrestrial realm above. The distance between Qathalla and his body grew from inches to feet as he closed his eyes to embrace the fall.

A strange feeling began to gnaw at the back of his mind; a feeling that soon grew into a presence that began to whisper in his ears with the voice of the wind. A voice that wanted him to let go of the feelings of trepidation and fear that were building up in his mind. He imagined that the voice was a feminine presence pressing into his back as he arched up and away from the world rushing toward him. Within the rushing air that tore into his robes, he could feel a caress of hair against his neck and face.

“Embrace the fall and be with me.” The feminine voice’s words took form and resounded deeply in Leiros’ mind. “The world you once knew is crumbling away into darkness. Soon there will be nothing worth clinging to. You know this.”

Leiros could feel the presence of Qathalla growing further away from him as he kept his eyes closed in this blackened world of eternal descent. He could hear his own heartbeat over the rushing wind and within a single moment, everything went completely silent. He could no longer feel the rush of wind against him, and the feeling of falling began to feel like a perpetual flight. He was free of the limitations of the world at this moment, free of his mortal coil, free of his fear, and his only companion was the voice that crooned softly into his mind.

“Let go of what pains you, my love.” As the voice whispered once more, he could feel the sickly tangy smell of old blood overpowering his nostrils and creeping along the back of his throat. “If you continue to struggle against this faltering world you will only find suffering. If you let go in this moment, then soon we will be together forever. We will be free of this damned world once and for all.”

With each word the voice spoke, sudden and jarring flashes of Leiros’ buried memories began to surface up from the deepest recesses of his soul. He could feel anger coursing through his veins and the ephemeral echo of his body clenched its fists in sympathy. All of the injustices he had witnessed growing up, and the certainty inside of him that he would witness even worse as his life continued on should he not embrace this voice from the depths of the abyss. He did not enjoy having the cold and metallic stillness of his mind being broken with revealing fractures, but as hard as he fought against this alien will, further cracks broke open all the more viciously.

“Save us both the pain that the future will bring. Embrace the void with me.”

The last piece of his personal control was sundered and began to crumble into dust, he could feel the unrestrained chaos of his emotions burning up from their depths. As these emotions and thoughts began to lick around him like hungry bale-fire flames Leiros forced himself further into his mind, to the one place he could find refuge from this madness; the last island at the core of his soul. As he continued to plummet through the darkness within and without, he awoke to the sensation of calmly floating above an ocean of quicksilver, with nothing but a dark abyss above him.

He could feel the feminine presence in the distance, at the edge of his astral senses, like a hungry beast stalking the darkness while being warded off by a bonfire’s light. He could see with his astral eyes the far-off ripples of the woman’s feet as she strode at the periphery of his metallic ocean. Bale-fire flames licked up in her wake as if her merest touch upon the ocean of his mind caused rot and madness. With each eruption of flame, she managed to move quickly into the darkness, always remaining hidden. Time and distance didn’t matter in this place, but the woman’s shadow invited such entropic concepts to manifest in jarring and distorted ways. Leiros was half aware of the sensations affecting his material body as well as the stillness he yearned for with his astral senses.

“You can’t escape from me and you’ve kept me restrained for far too long.” The woman’s voice was less seductive and more forceful as she continued to walk along the periphery of his stillness and test the very last of his mental defenses. Her voice had a predatory sort of cruelty behind it now. “I’ve been with you since you were a child. I’ve always been here — just out of your reach — yet always calling out to you. I have been your guide in your dreams, even though you did not remember me when you woke. I am the part of you that you refuse to embrace.”

“I refuse to remember you.” Leiros found his voice in this astral realm in the depths of his soul. His words began as a vibration from within but soon broke out into ripples of force that caused the surface of his metal ocean to ripple outward, eventually crashing into waves. “You are the serpent of chaos. You are my lesser self — my shadow — and I have no need for you.”

The woman laughed at his words and with each breath, her voice resounded like thunder. Torrents of indigo lightning raced across the infinite abyss above as the woman clawed towards him but was held at bay by the last of his will. She struggled for a moment and then continued her corruptive walk along the surface of his mind.

“There’s nothing wrong with a little chaos, my love.” The woman’s voice immediately lost its savagery and began to croon once more. The words felt like they reached across the distance of Leiros’ mind and caressed his astral essence directly. “You can’t hide behind suffocating order your entire life. Soon, you’ll find yourself embracing me whether you like it or not. If you refuse to embrace me now in death, saving you and I continued suffering; I’ll find you shortly and we can embrace as the world is drowned in blood and fire.”

“Then blood and fire it will be.” Leiros felt a cold fire rise up from inside of him. This threat from within himself caused a higher degree of personal defense to be birthed. Blue crackles of light began to build up from his astral fingers and roar within his astral body like arteries of power. “I’m not ready for you. I’m not ready to embrace the chaos within me. I am not strong enough, and this is not the right time.”

The woman threw a shadowed claw across the distance of his ocean and struck the void near his soul. Indigo flames rushed over him and instinctively he fired back with the cold fire he had begun to build up. The woman gave out a howl and stepped back into the furthest darkness.

“So be it, my love. Blood and fire, you have sworn this oath to me. I await you, and when the time is right, we will embrace the void together.”

With those last words, Leiros felt the feminine presence pull away from him. He could feel the corruptive bale-fires being quenched by the cool quicksilver of his internal ocean of order. Explosions of his intent caused waves of metal to stretch out and reform the defenses he had constructed for so long. Cracks and fissures were sealed as if they had never existed, and the newly found power within him imbued those cold edifices with greater strength.

As calm and rationality returned to his soul, Leiros stared down at his astral hands as they continued to crackle with blue flames of energy. Trickles of energy roared up and back into his astral self, creeping along his arms and through his torso. The energy suffused him until it began to build up behind his eyes. With a brilliant flash of blue, he found his eyes opening up once more into the corporeal world.

Leiros could see Qathalla’s immense and dark form rushing to meet the ground above him. They were separated by several yards of distance and he knew that the great authroc would be ending its dive soon. Reaching out his hands, Leiros felt the last vestiges of his crackling astral energy rush to his fingers once more. He aimed his will through his hands toward Qathalla and pulled hard on several of the leather reins flapping in the air around the bird’s back.

With a subtle pull of telekinetic force, he unfurled a distance of the reins and managed to seize onto one of them with his right hand once it snapped on the air near him. He spun the reins around his hand and leaned forward to press the reins into his left elbow. He began to push forward, drawing on the rein’s slack with each elbow as he neared his soaring spirit-mount yard by yard.

The last few inches toward the leather grip on Qathalla’s saddle were soon within reach. Leiros let all of the reins fall to his left hand so he could reach out with his right and take hold. As soon as the tips of his fingers stumbled over the rim of the grip, he became aware of how close Qathalla and he were to the ground. With a piercing rush of wind and a momentary sense of overwhelming panic, it seemed like Leiros and Qathalla fell through the very surface of the rocky Jolash Plateau.

Leiros stretched out his fingers once more and grabbed hold of Qathalla’s saddle and with every bit of strength he could muster, he pulled himself against the leather while slinging his feet into the harness. Darkness washed over him for a moment and then his eyes adjusted to the dim light trickling in below his feet from the mouth of the great Alsiran Canyon.

With his body secured against the hulking body of his spirit-mount, he could feel Qathalla change its pitch and bend even further upward. The authroc’s immense wings caught the quickly whirling canyon winds rushing up from the chilled waters of the Alsira river that crashed up from jagged rocks as it made its way from the Heart of Alsira in the north to the emerald-hued Jol River in the south.

As Qathalla pulled from its dive and turned its ground-ward momentum into a hard forward thrust, nausea and disorientation began to pull at Leiros’ body. His chest hit the great bird’s back hard and he began to gulp for air. Despite the disorientation and lack of air, he clenched every muscle in his body in hopes of keeping his blood flowing to his head properly, lest he black-out and fall from the saddle. Within a moment, he could draw breath again and feel his sight and senses returning from dim darkness to the full brightness that the afternoon’s light provided to the shadowed canyon reaches.

Leiros lifted himself slowly up from Qathalla’s back while holding tightly to the great bird’s reins and despite the shaking of his tired arms. The cool and refreshing mist of crashing glacial waters sprinkled across his face letting him know he was still alive for the moment. The whipping wind from the canyon tugged all the harder upon his robes and his ears were filled with a deafening howl.

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