Falerian’s Story – Part One
Falerian Deveral of the Clear Ice Peaks lived by one rule: Go with the wind.
When she was a child, her father took her and her brothers beyond the glacier fields of home out to the Greener Lands. Falerian hated the Greener Lands. Everything was dirty and smelly, and the tepid air felt almost too thick and stodgy to breathe, let alone fly through. She hovered carefully above the dirt-tracked roads, and ignored her brothers’ attempts to splash her as they jumped from puddle to muddy puddle. Her father walked, or at least seemed to. When Falerian got closer, she could sense the protective layer of cool air flowing around his body – including under his shoes, keeping him barely a finger-breadth from the ground. She privately vowed to learn how to do that for herself.
They came at last to a tree, covered in leaves that were still green despite the approach of autumn. Falerian’s father called up a strong wind, and shook the branches until the tree looked like mother’s broom when she took it outside to shake out all the dust and cobwebs. The massive branches creaked, and the smaller ones whipped back and forth in the fierce gale. Most of the leaves held tight, but some were torn loose, or fell as the twigs holding them broke free from their parent branches. The wreckage lay at their feet, but the three children were watching their father shake the tree. Trees were rare in the Glacier Fields, and they were enjoying the sight of this massive, powerful earth-thing being shaken like a baby’s rattle.
Then, suddenly, the wind dropped. The tree shook on for a few seconds, as if confused by the loss of motive force, then was still. The children were disappointed, and looked to their father for explanation. He crouched down and put his arms around their shoulders.
“Look at these fallen leaves,” he told them. “They were either too weak to hold tight, or they placed their trust in a weak link. As a result, when the wind shook the tree, they fell.” He picked up a few leaves and twigs and gave them to Falerian and her brothers.
“Take these as a reminder,” he told them, solemnly. “And when the wind shakes you, as it shakes us all, be sure to have a firm hold on the strong tree, not a weak twig.”
The boys nodded their understanding, but Falerian was not looking at the ground, with its (ugh!) dirt and twigs. She was watching a single flash of green, edged with yellow, fluttering in the sky above her. The leaf had blown from the tree, but instead of falling down, it had flown up and up – first using her father’s strong gusts, then transferring to a prevailing current somewhere below the clouds and above the treetops. It whirled and faltered, almost falling at one point. Falerian put out her hands to save it from the dirty earth, and she managed to generate enough of an air current to raise the leaf back to the sky. Now, as her father talked of holding tight, she only dreamed of flying free. Of chasing her leaf out, past the familiar Peaks and out into the unknown world. One day, she would be as free and fierce as the element she controlled.
* * *
“Having fun yet?” Falerian cackled as she raced past the drowsy Avlem guards. OK, so they’d just pulled thirteen hours on the night shift; didn’t mean they had to be all grumpy about it. She allowed the air playing under her feet to spray sideways as she ran, showering everyone but her in leaf-litter (and worse).
Uren emerged from her tent just in time to get hit full in the face. “Nobody likes you, Deveral!” she groaned, but it was purely reflex by now. The Air Elemental laughed again, and looped the sound in the air so that the clearing seemed to ring with the evidence of her amusement.
“But you do need me,” she retorted. “Which is why I get to do this,” she blasted a gust of dusty air into the Thodan’s face, and laughed helplessly as she turned red from coughing.
“And this,” she added, pushing air under the soles of her shoes and knocking her over, still coughing, to lie on her back under the shady canopy.
“And… oh stop making that noise,” she snapped. Abruptly, she yanked the dust-laden air from Uren’s lungs, and streamed clean air in. “There, now shut up hacking and wheezing and listen to me, because I’m only going to say this… well, OK, yeah, I’m going to say it a lot, because it’s true, and important and about me, so yeah, you’ll be hearing this a lot but you still need to listen because it’s me saying so, alright? Good.”
Falerian smirked. “You need me because someone let a dirt-eater escape the Prison Mines. And, as you know, the Air tribes, specifically those of us from the Peaks, like myself, are the only force that has ever overcome the defences of those Earther rats. You got an earth rat at large, you need an Air Master to take it down. So, you can complain all you want but you’re stuck with me, and with being the target of any ‘practice’ I might need to do.” The self-proclaimed master of air smirked again and turned to swagger away, when a voice behind her said,
“I trust that your little tirade was not addressed to *me* in any way, Falerian Deveral of the Clear Ice Peaks?”
The voice was like liquid darkness, and as compelling as a single lamp burning on a dark, hopeless night. Falerian hesitated, then turned and bowed, extravagantly, to a tall lady dressed all in black with the merest hint of dark green at the collar and cuffs. Her face was perfect, her hair was perfect, and her golden armour shone like polished obsidian. But what really drew the eye was the seven-foot-long oak-wood staff that she held at her side. The tip glowed purple-black with a power that seeped into the air, and clung like tar.
“Never, Great Lady Leshah, Mistress of Darkness from Before Time,” Falerian assured her, with sarcastic respect. The Air Master bowed low, allowing her wild hair to obscure her face, but both women knew that there was fear etched on that face. Leshah was an Arallan, ageless and powerful, who could shape matter to her will as easily as Falerian could make the wind blow. No-one in their right mind would invite the anger of an Arallan, especially one who had chosen to specialise in Darkness and Destruction.
Falerian maintained her bow, going lower and lower until she was looking at the Avlem guards behind her, pulling upside down faces at them between her legs. Falerian turned the bow into a forward roll, then lifted herself on the air to dive upwards into the morning sky. She gave the impression of careless freedom, but she controlled her performance so that Leshah was not touched in any way. As the Avlem were blasted by the backdraft, the Air Elemental was careful not to disturb one hair of the Lady Leshah’s immaculate coiffure.
Well, here it is. Look for the next instalment on Sunday, 10th May.