Friday, April 21, 2006

Flight Feathers

“Mama, mama, where are we going today?”

The woman smiled down at her child, who looked up at her expectantly. His white hair matched her own, along with the smiling blue eyes. She took the tiny hand offered to her, and responded in an excited whisper.

“The overlook, Micheal. We're going to fly!”

He wrinkled his brow. “But mama, I don't know how to fly.”

His mother stooped down and picked up one of the fuzzy white feathers off the grass around their little home as they walked. “I'll teach you. We'll fly together.”

“Where will we go then?”

“I don't know, Micheal, where do you want to go?”

“The river!”

“Alright, we can go to the river.” She smiled again. They walked in a happy silence for a while, while she contemplated the feather in her hand. Innocence, in the form of a firstfeather. The downy fluff covered the wings until a child became old enough to fly, and then fell to make way for the new feathers. The flight feathers.

“Mama, how are we going to fly?”

“It's easy. You already know how.”

“But mama, I don't. I don't know how to fly.”

“Yes you do. You know it in here.” She pointed to her chest.

“In my shirt?”

“No, dear, in your heart. That's where flight comes from.”

The little boy giggled. “Mama, you talk funny sometimes.”

She laughed with him, just a little.

Soon, the overlook loomed before them, tall, rocky and steep, but easy to climb from the other side. To her, it seemed monstrous, waiting for blood, and a pang of doubt surged through her veins. Was Michal really ready to fly?

Micheal seemed to share the same doubts, though not as strongly as his mothers. “But what if my wings don't work right?”

“Then I'll catch you.” She spoke against her own doubts, her own fears, fighting to keep her voice calm against the rising urge to protect her child from danger, including this danger of falling.

“But what if your wings don't work right?”

She tried to laugh. “Micheal, my wings work fine.”

“Prove it,” he said defiantly. His diminutive form, boldly standing with his hands on his hips and his wings spread out behind him, the way that she acted sometimes, made his mother smile, despite her fears.

“Alright,” she said with the same defiance. “I will. Watch me.”

She jumped up to the top of the overlook, far higher than any human could, feeling the rush of air around her. Upon the top, she looked down to the ground far below, and for a moment she remembered her own first flight.

A calm spring day, much like this one, with her parents flying over her, and her looking down and wondering what it would be like to fall. The fear that she felt, the overwhelming urge to back away from the edge almost caused her to turn and run, but she couldn't. She had to fly. Simply jump from the edge and let her wings catch her. How long did she stand there, staring at the ground below, as her parents waited patiently for her to jump? It felt like an eternity.

One thing she learned from that first flight. Once you jump, there's no turning back. You have to fly.

A cool breeze brought her back to the present. She still had to fly, but now, she was not afraid. She calmly pulled the thin cloth from atop her wings, letting it drift to the ground far below, feeling the sun warming her, and watching the light refract from each golden flight feather. Almost unthinking, she leapt into the sky.

The wind lifted her immediately. She soared high above the overlook, getting higher and higher, her joy growing with every passing moment. Then she swooped low, almost touching the ground with her wingtip, as she shouted to her son. “See? My wings work! Flying is easy!”

Micheal needed no second urging. He ran to the top of the hill, eager to jump. But then he paused for a moment. He stared down, just as she remembered doing, wondering if he really could fly. Then, he jumped, and time seemed to stand still. She watched him tumble in the air for a second, and she started to swoop down to catch him, but then he spread his wings. The golden flight feathers flashed as the last of the downy firstfeathers blew away.

“Mama, look! I'm flying!”

“I knew you could do it, Micheal!”

They wheeled in the sky as Micheal quickly learned the basics of flight, flapping, turning, and finally landing. Once they were back atop the hill, she kneeled down to his eye level.

“You did great! Better than great!” She hugged him, and he hugged her, with a smile that seemed bigger than the sky. “Well,” she said proudly. “Do you want to go to the river now?”

“Mama,” he said, looking up at her with his smiling blue eyes reflecting the sky, “Can't we stay and fly a little longer?”

“Of course we can.” They leapt together from the overlook. She smiled as a thought occurred to her. Once you have flight feathers, you can't turn back. And in all honesty, she wouldn't want it any other way.

A/N: Yes, this is set in the same world as my other stories; no, it's not in the same plot line. It might come up later, but it's not technically in the series. Yet.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Wasting Paper.

Today, I ran out of paper in my blue drawing notebook. It's been a couple months since I emptied it, so I went ahead and dumped all the drawings out onto my desk. I know exactly where I was when each drawing was done, so I went through and threw away the really bad ones, and the commentary went somthing like this:
"Wasting paper on the youth retreat!"
"Wasting paper in study hall!"
"Wasting paper after tennis practice!"
"Wasting paper during biology class!"
And so on, until I sorted out the extremely bad ones, wrote stupid comments all over them (The shirt of no return! "Mmm, pillow!") and threw them away. So now I'm gonna reload my blue notebook with fresh paper and draw more things! (Aka WASTE MORE PAPER!)

Monday, April 10, 2006


“Absolutely not.”

Anna crossed her arms resolutely and looked defiantly at Marie. Marie ignored her glare and continued throwing dried food into a pair of brown canvas packs.

“It's for your own good, Anna. I can't keep you here knowing where you belong.”

“She's right, Anna,” said Jacques, pouring himself another rum while Marie wasn't looking. “You have to go home.” He sipped from the glass until Marie turned around, then hid it behind the bottle with an expression of mature authority on his face.


“No buts. We're going.” Marie grabbed a loaf of hard crusted bread and turned back to her packing. Jacques pulled the glass out again. “And Jacques, that's your last glass of rum. No more.” He disappointedly sipped it as he listened to their conversation.

“What about the tavern?” Anna protested, hoping to appeal to Marie's business sense.

“It's not going anywhere. We are.”

“But who'll take care of it?”

“Jacques.” She wrapped a pair of candles in thick cloth, completely ignoring Jacques as he sputtered through a mouthful of rum.

“Me? Marie, be reasonable! I can't take care of a big place like this, I'm no good at cooking, or cleaning, or...”

“You'll learn. There's no substitute for practice.”

“Let's discuss this, please, think about what you're saying!”

“Marie, do you really trust Jacques with a building full of ale?” Anna pointed out, smirking.

Jacques suddenly became a great deal more interested in the job. “I suppose I could take care of the place for a few weeks, sacrificial and all that.”

Marie stopped short in the middle of folding a blanket. “Good grief, no. No. I don't.”

“Come on, don't you trust good old Jacques?” Jacques pleaded, setting his rum down on the table.

She looked him straight in the eye. “Do I really need to answer that?”

“No,” he said, after some consideration. “No, I don't suppose you do.”


“So who will take care of the tavern?” asked Anna, self satisfaction in her voice.

Marie thought long and hard. “No one.”

“What?” Jacques and Anna said in dismayed unison.

“I said no one. We'll close the tavern while we're gone.”


“I said no buts, Anna.” She grabbed a canteen and tossed it to Anna.


“You too, Jacques? We're going, the tavern's closing. You'll survive.” She paused for a moment. “On second thought...”

“Yes?” the other two blurted expectantly.

“You're coming with us.”

Anna put her forehead in her hands while Jacques tried to talk his way out of it.

“But... It's such a trip, and... I just got back into town. Er... I need to put the finishing touches on those maps I did on my recent travels.”

“Oh, come off it. You don't have anything better to do, you never stay in town long anyway, and you told me that you finished those maps yesterday after you left.”

“But I was in such a state after hearing the news about Anna, I might have made a mistake!”

“You're not that much better now. Besides, we need a guide. There might be some free rum in it for you when we get back.”

“Oh, well, in that case,” Jacques stood and gave an elaborate bow. “Jacques Q. Redstone, expert guide and mapmaker at your service, madame.”

Anna sighed. Two against one again.

“I heard that, Anna.” Marie turned from her packing and looked Anna straight in the eyes. “Really, what reason do you have not to want to go home?”

“Well...” she stammered, looking at the floor. “Um...”

“Yes?” said Marie expectantly.


“Oh... Well, that would explain it. You're afraid he'll come looking for you while you're not here?”

“Who's Micheal?” asked Jacques confusedly.

“Later, Jacques.”

“Yes,” said Anna in response to Marie's question. “I have to stay here, or he'll never find me...”

“So who's Micheal?”

“It's not later yet,” said Marie, not taking her eyes off Anna.

“It's kinda later...”

“I said later, I meant later. Not kinda later, later. Now be quiet.”

Jacques sulked. “Fine, madame grumpy.”

Marie ignored him and placed a hand on Anna's shoulder. “Anna, think about it. Where's he most likely to check, someplace he's never been and never heard of, namely here, or your home, where, as you tell it, you were going when you were separated?”

Anna thought about it for a moment. “He... would probably go to Red Grove.” She looked up, tears welling in her eyes. “But what if he does come here?”

“We can't live our lives waiting for what ifs, Anna. We have to do something, or we won't live at all.” She waited a moment longer for a response, then sighed, and offered another option. “We could leave something here to tell him where you've gone, just in case he does show up here.”


“Yes, I'll leave that to you. Why don't you go figure out something while I finish packing.”

She thought for a moment. “I know what to do.”


Anna watched Marie stuffing the sacks full of rations for a moment, then spoke up. “You probably shouldn't put the bread there, it'll get flattened the instant you set the pack down.”

“Really? Where should I put it then?”

“Right here.” Anna placed the bread on top of the mass in the pack. “It's easier to reach there too.”

“Well,” Marie smiled. “I suppose you know more about this than I do. Carry on, then.”

The two continued packing in silence for a few moments longer before Jacques finally piped up.

“Is it later now?”

The Bloggage Returneth!

Finally! I'm officially not a spammer again!
I know I haven't posted in a bit, but I have a good reason. It involved a lot of panic, some links that I didn't quite understand, and a spam prevention robot. Yep, my blog got marked as spam, though I have no idea why. It's weird. I almost just switched back to Xanga. But, here I am, not on Xanga, and a working blog. So it all turned out ok.
Oh, and my brother's knee surgery went great. Yay!

Sunday, April 02, 2006


“Jacques! Nice to see you again!”

Marie smiled as the man pulled out a barstool and sat down. Pleasure showed in his crinkled face when she pulled a particularly good bottle of rum from the rack.

“Nice to be back, Marie. Those trails get longer every time I walk them, let me tell you. I don't even know why I'm still in the business.”

“You know that; half the province would be wandering around lost if it wasn't for your maps.” She leaned on the counter, pouring the rum into a glass. He rubbed his eyes.

“I suppose you're right. Still, it would be nice to have some young blood around to help carry everything. Ah well. Can't have the world.”

“So,” Marie said confidentially, “what's the latest news?”

Jacques laughed. “You just never change, do you Marie?”

She smiled at his tease. “It's nice to have some constants, isn't it?”

“Indeed it is, especially with what's been spotted in the other towns. But I'll get to that later.” He picked up the glass and drained it. “First things first. That young couple down in Pole Valley is finally getting married.”

“You mean Reed and Rika? About time, we've only been expecting that for three years now.”

“Denise up in Eagle Ridge finally had her baby, a fine healthy boy. She's going to name him after his father, rest his soul.” Jacques bowed his head for a few seconds in respect as Marie did the same. “And you know that little boy who broke his leg in Ra...”

“Enough already, Jacques, what did you mean when you said that something was spotted in the other towns?”

“Patience, patience, Marie. You surely can't expect me to tell you that until I've had a few drinks.”

“Yes I can. The last time I bought that excuse you wound up snoring on the floor, stone drunk, and when you finally woke up you told me you couldn't remember.”

“I couldn't, and besides, do you really think I'd cheat you out of a fascinating story like this?”


“Fine. One more round and I'll tell you.”

Marie sighed, and poured the rum. Jacques sipped it slowly this time, examining the tavern with a practiced eye. He caught sight of Anna, busing an empty table with her long brown hair pulled back out of her face.

“Hey, who's the new girl?”

“Oh, you mean Anna? Good kid. I bought her off some of those ruffians that sometimes come through here, they claimed they rescued her from a monster. From what I've been able to get out of her, they actually kidnapped her.”

“Huh, reminds me of that kidnapping in Red Grove a while back... Big reward for that one, even now nobody knows who did the deed. Lot of people trying to find out, though.”

“Yes, Jacques, we all know about that. Now what were you going to tell me?”

Jacques looked sorrowfully down at his empty glass. “I don't suppose I could get one more round?”


“Fine.” He sighed. “There's been a celestia seen going from town to town, rumor has it he's headed in this direction.”

Marie paled. “A celestia? Oh dear... those flying menaces are never good news.”

“It gets better. He managed to beat up around 15 drunks in a tavern before he burned the place down, but the one that noticed what he was actually talked to him for a while. He claimed to be looking for a friend, even gave her name and a little description. I forget the exact details, but the guy said something about the kidnapping.”

“Should've known a celestia would be involved in that. That poor girl... I wonder where she is now.” Marie shook her head. “I hope it doesn't come this way. You never know what they'll do; savages every one of them.” Marie hadn't noticed that Anna was listening.

“That's not true!” The two turned simultaneously to face Anna, who had her hands on her hips and stared at them defiantly. Her green eyes blazed, calling all attention to them as she defended the race of fliers.

“Anna,” Marie said, cautiously. “Perhaps you've never met one. They're savage, great winged beasts who would as soon kill you as look at you.”

“I have met them! They're kind, and gentle. Just because one or two have done bad things doesn't mean they all have.”

Jacques examined Anna, long and slow, as her and Marie's voices rose louder and louder, each defending their view without relenting. “Wait a minute... Haven't I seen you somewhere before?”

“Jacques, this is none of your business,” Marie snapped at him, without taking her eyes off Anna.

“No, really, I thought you looked familiar, I just can't place where I've seen you before. When was it...” He closed his eyes and thought for a while. “A couple years ago, north of here... near one of the big rivers... Ah yes, Red Grove. That's where it was!”

“Red Grove?” Marie turned to Jacques, curiosity burning in her eyes. “Where the kidnapping was?”

“That's the place, four years ago. I was up there while I was charting the Sky Divide in detail. Now if only I could remember what she was doing there...” He rubbed his eyes. “Not that this rum is helping much.”

“Anna,” said Marie sternly, “I think you've got some explaining to do.”

“I... I...” she stammered, looking for an escape.

“Oh, no. That can't be it. You couldn't be...” Jacques looked up at her, disbelieving. “I must be drunk.”

“What is it, Jacques?” asked Marie, firmly.

“The girl that got kidnapped. Her name was Anna.” He stared at Anna, like she would vanish any second.

“Anna? Is that true? Was that... you that was kidnapped?” Marie seemed almost as disbelieving as Jacques at the thought.

She didn't answer right away, staring at the wooden floor. Finally, she spoke.


Silence reigned.

Saturday, April 01, 2006


“Excuse me, Sir, but which way is Red Grove?”

The grizzled old farmer examined the traveler slowly, from her floppy brown hat and green poncho to the tips of her dusty leather boots, as he leaned against the fencepost the bordered the wildly overgrown path. Finally, he pointed to the upcoming fork in the road with a gnarled finger.

“It's t' yer left, real close t' the Sky Divide river. Y'can't miss it; it ain't exactly small. But,” he paused, sighing, then continued, “I wouldn't go there if I was you. Not the best place t' be anymore. Used t' be real nice, music, food, trade, anything y'could want, but not n' more.”

“What happened?” asked the traveler, curious.

“Well,” the farmer thought for a moment, scratching his balding head, “Lord Ty, he's the guy in charge down there, he had a daughter, y'see, name of Anna.”


“Yeah, y'heard of her? Not surprising, what with that reward and all. Anyway, Lord Ty was all happy and the like, like any father. So he wanted Red Grove to be a real nice place for 'is daughter to grow up, so he lowered taxes, encouraged th' arts, y'know, that sort a thing.”

“Sounds like a nice place to me.”

“It was, trust me. I used t' live close t' there. Well, when 'is daughter grew up, a bunch a rich pretty boys started tryin' for her hand in marriage. Y'see, Lord Ty had no other children, so whoever won her got the whole place t'boot. Not t' mention she was as pretty as a summer sunrise...” the man's eyes misted at the memory. “I remember this one time, there was a parade, in honor of... I fergit, some noble or another, they're all alike. Anyway, the carriage that Anna was ridin' in passed right by; I could right in, an' the girl waved right at me, she was wearin' a blue dress, it was her favorite color, from what I heard, and smiled right at me. I'll never forget that smile, like all the joy in the world rolled into one little lady.” He looked sad for a minute. “Ah, how I miss those days of livin' near Red Grove, what with th' parades, and th' markets, I even talked like a city folk back then. An' I would still be there if it hadn't happened...”

“What happened?”

“I'm gettin' to that, lemme finish. Well, Anna weren't no fool, she knew what those suitors were after. So she turned 'em down, every last one. Couple of 'em went away real mad, sayin' nasty things, you know the type. Anna was wise to turn 'em down.”

“And?” Impatience tinged the traveler's voice as she edged closer the the side of the path, or at least what of it that was clearly the path.

“Well, one day, three or four years ago, she was out in the little garden 'er daddy made for 'er, or so the story goes, an' when 'e went out t' talk t' 'er, she was gone. Disappeared, jus' like that.”

“Didn't the townspeople see anything?”

“Well, sure they did, but most weren't sure what they saw. Some of 'em were just plain scared t' come forward, the lord was so angry, threatening and arresting people left and right. A few said that it was a dark, mysterious shape from th' shadows that leaped higher than any man over th' wall of the garden and vanished with th' girl; some others said she was lured away, like that could ever happen, she was much t' smart to go off like that. A few crackpots even thought it was the sleepwalkers, wanderin' around in the daytime, an' stealin' her away, but no one believes 'em.” He smiled, smug and mysterious, and said, “But I know what really happened.”

“You mean you saw the kidnapper?” the traveler asked, surprise in her voice.

“Sure did, clear as day. I was takin' my first crop of the year to market when it happened, right before my very eyes.”

“Did you tell Lord Ty what you saw?”

“An' get my head chopped off? I'd have to be crazier than a drunk duck to tell 'im what really happened.”

“Why? What's the worst that he'd do? I'm sure he'd be happy to know what happened to his daughter.”

“I didn't tell 'im because it was a celestia that did it, an' he hates celestia! He wouldn't let 'em in the town, not ever. 'E claimed that it was t' protect 'is daughter's innocence against their savagery, but we all knew that it was jut because 'e hates them.” The farmer scratched his head again. “Never quite understood why, they seem nice enough t' me. Every once in a while a few help out on th' farm, in exchange for food and shelter fer a few days. They're good, hard workers, even if their wings do knock things over sometimes. Anyway, that's when things really started goin' downhill for Red Grove.”

“What happened?”

“Lord Ty, as good an' kind as 'e had been, became desperate to get Anna back. 'E offered a reward t' anyone who could find th' kidnapper, 15,000 gold coins, but nothin' came of it but hoaxes an' mercenaries. 'E even raised taxes to increase th' reward, highter an' higher, til folks like me could barely get by. Th' reward went up t' 20,000, then 25,000, an' even up to 30,000 til 'e stopped raisin' it. Then, 'e made a declaration that surprised everybody, even me, tho' I moved out 'ere before th' taxes got too high.”

“What'd he say?”

“Ty said that whoever brought his daughter back t' 'im would not only get the reward, but 'e would also give 'is daughter to 'em in marriage. I don't think 'e realized the kind of man that was likely t' find her would be th' worst kind, mercenaries and th' like. But then, 'e said that anyone who tried t' claim th' reward falsely, they'd be beaten, tied t' a rock, an' thrown into the Sky Divide to drown. That was proof enough for me that 'e's gone mad; 'e'd never do a thing like that when Anna was around. But I pity anyone who hasn't left Red grove yet. His lordship is gettin' worse.” He look the traveler straight in the eyes, his gaze burning into her with a dead honesty that would have unnerved the bravest warrior. “My advice? Steer clear of Red Grove.”

“Thank you, Sir, but I'm going there anyway. I'll be careful.”

The farmer shrugged. “Your funeral.” He turned to leave, when a thought struck him. “Hey, would y'like t' eat at my house t'night? An old guy like me gets lonely sometimes, no family, no friends, except for th' few that fly in occasionally. A friendly face at th' table is always welcome.”

“I'd love to, sir, but I have to get going. I want to reach Red Grove as soon as possible.”

“Ah, well. I'll see you around then.”

She smiled. “Indeed you will. Goodbye, sir.”

And with that last, enigmatic comment she began down the road again, leaving the man to ponder her words alone.


“That stupid sky rat broke my nose!”

The man sat cross legged on the ground by the tavern door, staring up at his visitor. She stared back at the pudgy, red faced little man, fully aware that he was drunk, but still intrigued by any news of a celestia.

“Really. Why did he do that?”

“Cause celestia are jus' plain evil. I was jus' trying to knock 'is block off, stab 'im with a knife, y'know, just mind'n my own business, and 'e slugs me! No respect fer their betters, let me tell you.”

“And why were you trying to stab him?”

“B'cause he... he... I dunno, I 'ad a reason then. But 'e still shouldn't 'ave slugged me. I got connections, y'know. I'll get that rotten sky rat yet!” The man weakly pounded his fist into the ground. “I'll get 'im. Y'll see...” The man's eyes slowly roved around the dusk shadows of the town. “Hey, could y' spare a guy a few coins for a pint? A celestia broke my nose the other day, y'know...”

The woman shook her head and walked away, disgusted by the drunken informant. He began singing an old tavern tune as she moved down the dusty street, so full of piercingly bad notes it seemed more like a form of torture than a form of entertainment.

"Pour me another one, rum ale or beer, and show me a woman, to help spread the cheer..." The man dozed off, leaning against the door of the tavern and snoring uproariously.

The traveler ignored him and went on. Wooden building after wooden building rose to meet her gaze until she noted a section of multi-hued dusk sky silhouetted by charred remains. The beams of the structure still remained standing, though barely. It looked like a recent fire; any sort of weather would've knocked it to the ground with no trouble at all.

“Excuse me,” she said to a passer by, “What happened with this?”

“Oh, you mean the Fighting Cock? Yeah, it burned down a couple days ago. Used to be a real successful tavern, way better than that hovel down the street. Not sure what caused it, a lotta people say that it was a celestia, but it might'a just been the drunks.” The stubby little woman lowered her voice and leaned in close. “But me? I think it was the Drunken Cat, that little bar down the street. Their business has nearly doubled since the fire, and they were barely getting by before.”

“Poppycock.” The traveler swiveled on one foot to face the new speaker, a man in fine clothes with a cultured accent and heavy purse. “The gossip of an old woman cannot be trusted. If you want to know the real story, ask someone who was there.”

“Who you calling old?! I'll have you know that I'm not a day older than...”

“My grandmother.” The man looked triumphantly down his nose at the irate woman, projecting an aura of snobbishness.

The old woman huffed. “Fine, you rich little whippersnapper, but if you're looking for someone who gives trustworthy information, ask me before you ask pretty boy here. Last guy he gave directions to ended up wandering in circles for a week before he showed up back here and this troublemaker wormed more money out of the poor guy. Then he asked me for directions, and he got where he was going first time!”

“Either that, or he wandered off a cliff.”

She stomped her foot. “Fine. Be that way.” She turned to the traveler and added, “When you get tired of listening to the con man here, come find me. I'll give you some real information.”

The wrinkled old woman stomped down the street, enraged. When a chicken got in her way, she yelled something unintelligible and whacked at it with her cane and carried on. The traveler turned back to her other would-be informant.

“So who did burn down the bar?”

“A celestia. Big one, he was, and I was the only one in that bar sober enough to notice. Why, without me...”

“Sir, please, what was he looking for?”

The man looked upset at this interruption. “Well, he was asking about a girl by the name of Anna. Probably wanted to kidnap her.” The man seemed to catch himself suddenly, realizing that he easily get money in exchange for his information. “Of course, a little cash never hurt my memory any.”

"Alright,” The traveler said, and pulled a few coins out of the purse she kept beneath her green poncho. “No money until you tell me everything, of course,” she added slyly.

“Of course,” the man said, his voice strained only slightly. She could tell that he wasn't used to dealing with people who paid after the fact, a trait only too common in con men. “Well, the only Anna that I know of is the daughter of a noble up in a town called Red Grove; nice girl, disappeared a couple years back. Big reward for whoever catches the kidnapper. So I told him and asked just why he was looking for her. He said that he was just a friend, a likely story. I, being so wise and considerate of my fellow humans, decided to point out that he wasn't human, and thereby saved countless lives from the celestia's savagery. He burned down the tavern with a candle though, and escaped. I received a reward for saving the town, and everyone went away happy.”

The man eyed her clenched fist hungrily. “Is that all?” she said, watching his face for a clue if he was lying.

“Yes, yes, now will you hand over that money?”

“All in good time. I only have one more question. Where is Red Grove?”

“Northeast of here, over Crueller Pass. When you reach the Sky Divide River, just follow the path north. You can't miss it. Now can I have the...”

“Certainly, sir. I thank you for your help.” She dropped the coins into his hand, more than his information merited, but she was feeling generous. Turning to face the northern edge of the town, she felt his hand on her shoulder holding her back.

“Ma'am,” he said, a tone of respect prompted by the extra coins in his voice, “May I ask you something?”

“Go ahead.”

“Why exactly are you interested in this? For the reward?”

“No, of course not.”

“Why then?”

“For the story, silly,” she said with a small smile, and headed down the dusty road north.


The snow fell thick and fast around the town she had come to know as home as Anna once again trudged through the elements to the top of the hill. She couldn't even see the moon tonight.

“Anna, are you daft or something? You can't go out there tonight, you'll catch your death of cold!” Marie's voice called out from the tavern door below. “I'm not dragging your frozen body out of the snow, do you hear me?”

“I'll be fine, Marie, I won't stay out for long.” Anna pulled the thin blue shawl around her as a whirlwind of snow gusted around her feet and continued up the hill. The wind seemed to blow stronger against her every minute, saying 'go back, go back.' On the very top of the hill, she hesitated, searching the sky for a glimmer of the moon. She closed her eyes for a moment, shielding them from the storm When she opened them again, surprise filled her, surprise that she could no longer see the tavern, the town, even the ground around her. All was a swirling vortex of white snowflakes and the darkness of night.

Anna shook the snow from her shawl and started back down, relying on her footprints to guide her in the right direction. Surprise filled her at what she saw at the bottom of the hill.

Nothing remained, nothing living, nothing dead, just snow, snow, and more snow. “Did I come down the wrong side?” she wondered aloud. She turned to go back up, but the hill disappeared into the swirling tumult, even her footprints had been erased.

“You should have listened to me,” said a voice, much like Marie's, but different somehow, filled with darkness and spite. “I told you not to go. I told you. Why didn't you listen?” The voice sounded like the edge of a jagged blade, cutting into her spirit with every word. “Now you'll never get home. Micheal won't find you, he'll never come for you.” A grinning facade of Marie's face emerged from the storm, leering, with one green eye and one brown.

“No...” she said breathlessly, backing away from the half-familiar face. “No, he'll find me, he will!”

“Stop lying to yourself, Anna, that celestia forgot about you long ago.” She turned to see her father, his face twisted and grotesque like Marie's, with jutting fangs and yellow, glaring eyes. “He'll never come.”

“No! He will!” She tried to run from the two, but the snow that blanketed the ground slowed her steps, as the monsters grew closer and closer. As they reached to touch her, she fell. The snow shot up, ropes of frozen crystals binding her arms and legs. The father-monster leaned over her, still grinning, his eyes filled with malice, hate and... what was it? Hunger.

“He never really cared. You knew it all along, but you didn't want to believe your head. You trusted your heart, and look where it got you. Celestia are evil, you know that, I taught you that, but you forgot it for his sake. And now he's abandoned you.”

“No, no...” she murmered feebly, as the snow pulled her further down, further into an airless world of darkness and pain.

“They're right.” A facade of Micheal stood over her with the others, with talons sprouting from his hands. “I don't care, I never did. And you believed me, foolish girl.”

She stared up at him, pleading, as her heart broke into a thousand tiny pieces. “Micheal... why?”

“Because you were a fool, that's why.” Even the traveler had joined the ranks of the demonic figures standing over her. “And now, you die.”

Micheal pulled out a blade and kneeled down, holding it to her throat. A wicked grin filled his countenance as he raised it high above his head.

“Oh, no you don't!” Marie's voice rang through the air, normal, the reluctant compassion and touch of sarcasm that always flourished there returning. “Stupid little sleepwalker, get off of her! Off, I say!”

Anna felt warmth returning to her body, driving out the cold and fear that filled her. She moved her hand to her face; it no longer was bound by the icy grasp of the nightmarish snow. She slowly realized that her eyes were closed. When she opened them and sat up, she saw Marie, standing next to her on the summer hilltop. The older woman shouted insults at something Anna couldn't quite make out and was hitting it repeatedly with a broom.

“Take that, you miniature imp, you misbegotten creature of the night! I'll teach you to mess with humans, you spike-headed little monkey, you...”

“Marie?” Anna asked. “What's going on?”

Marie trapped the creature under the broom and looked over at Anna, who was still rubbing sleep from her eyes. “Oh, good, you're awake,” she said, relief in her voice. “I thought I might have gotten here too late.”

“What's that thing?” Anna asked, pointing to what appeared to be a scaled monkey clawing at the broom, snarling and biting at whatever happened to be unfortunate enough to be near it.

“A sleepwalker,” said Marie, giving the thing another whack with the broom for good measure. “Deadly little creatures, inject venom into you then wait until the hallucinations cause enough stress to kill you. This one almost had you, lucky I came out here when I did.”

“Really?” Anna's eyes widened. “I've never seen anything like it...”

“Surprising. They're all over in the summer. The only thing I know of that can keep them away is celestia feathers, they can't stand the light they refract.” She chuckled. “Well, celestia feathers or a well-built door.” She whacked the thing again, and kicked it down the hill. “You'd better come inside. Where there's one, there's always five or six more waiting to help eat the kill.”

“R-right.” Anna shook her head, trying to clear her mind of the shadows left by the monsters. “So... That wasn't Micheal who said that?”

“Oh, dear. Of course not. And whatever you thought I said, it wasn't me either.” Marie guided her down the hill and into the inn. “Just don't sleep outside again.”

Anna went inside, but Marie lingered outside the door for a moment, staring at the moon.

“Micheal, wherever you are, hurry. She needs you.”


“Anna, eh?” The bearded man scratched his chin thoughtfully for a moment, leaning over the tankard of amber liquid resting on the bar in front of them. “Nope. Never heard of her.”

“No? Well, thank you anyway, sir.” Micheal walked away briskly through the darkened, smoky room, careful not to bump his wings into anything. “The best thing about bars,” he mumbled, “is it's too dark to notice much, and whatever people do notice is dismissed because they're drunk.” Glancing over to a red-faced man singing and dancing on a table, he added, “Really drunk.”

“Hey, you.” Micheal turned to face the speaker. “You lookin' for a girl named Anna?”

“Do you know her?” Hope lingered in Micheal's voice at this, the first lead in nearly a month.

“Brown hair, green eyes, about so tall?” The man gestured vaguely, his face hardly visible behind the cloud of smoke puffing from his cigar.

“Yes! Have you seen her?”

“Nice girl. Last time I saw her she was living out in the east somewhere, but I don't remember exactly where...” A crooked smile appeared through the heavy smoke. “Maybe a little cash would help refresh my memory?”

Micheal sighed. Another con man was the last person he wanted to see right now. But if this man had anything he could use...

“Alright.” Coins clinked into the man's smooth hand.

He counted them with a glance, then resumed talking. “I believe it was a little town called Red Grove, her father was someone important there. No other family to go looking for her when she disappeared. Heard she was kidnapped.”

“I know all that. Can you tell me any more?”

“Hey, she's just one girl. The only reason I know about her is because of the reward offered for her kidnapper. Thirty thousand gold coins is enough to make research worth my time.” The man turned suddenly, eying Micheal suspiciously. “And why, may I ask, are you looking for her?”

“I'm... a friend.”

“Really. What was a nice girl like her doing to make friends like you?” The man's voice began to rise, just enough to attract a few of the less-drunk occupants of the bar. “Winged friends,” he added pointedly.

“Keep your voice down, please. I'm not after the reward.”

“How do I know that, celestia?” he whispered, grinning. “If I happened to point out that you are what you are, this bar would riot. I would get a reward for protecting the public from the likes of you.”

“Sir, please. I don't want a fight.”

“That's too bad. I want the reward.” The man immediately raised his voice, almost yelling. “Get away from me, filthy celestia! We don't want your kind around here!”

The entire bar turned to face them simultaneously. The angry glares signaled to Micheal that it was time to run. He whirled towards the door, no longer taking care to hide his wings. Unfortunately, the doorway was already filled with angry drunks.

He raised his hands, pleading with the furious crowd. “All I want is to leave peacefully. There's no need for a fight.”

“Too late, celestia.” The man he had been talking to earlier, now stone drunk, leered at him, overconfident even though he could barely stand. “We're gonna destroy you now.” Raucous cries of agreement came from all over the bar, drunken voices filled with blind courage. Micheal adopted a fighting pose, knowing negotiation wouldn't get him out of this one.

The first one rushed him, teetering wildly. Micheal dodged and clotheslined him with practiced ease. The second attacker came from behind and got catapulted into the ceiling for his efforts. A third picked up a chair, swung, and missed. He hit the con man square in the face and knocked the table over. The rest rushed en masse.

Flying bodies and broken furniture filled the air for a few minutes, as Micheal ducked and dodged, causing his attackers to hit each other instead of him. They finally managed to get themselves sorted out, forcing him back into a corner.

A man with a shining blade approached menacingly. “You're gonna get it now, sky rat.”

“Really,” said Micheal with a confidence he didn't really feel. “Isn't there any way we could sort this out peacefully?”

“Quiet, you flying trash!” One of the more drunken, and heavily bruised, patrons of the bar forced his way to the front. “You don't talk!” He slammed his fist down on one of the few tables that remained standing to make his point clear. The table broke, finally giving in to the repeated blows it had taken, and the burning candle resting on it fell to the alcohol soaked floor.

The wooden tavern caught like the firetrap it was. Mass chaos ensued as the crowd ran for the door, forgetting Micheal completely in their efforts to escape the crawling flames. Micheal moved with them, blending into the panic. As soon as he made it into the open air, he hid his wings as best as he from the light from fire and stars above that could illuminate them like a flare. He moved as quickly as he could through the gathering crowd, away from the blaze that filled the night with smoke.

Sitting on a hill about a quarter mile away from the tavern, he put his head in his hands. Blood from a cut on his forehead trickled down his arms, but he didn't care. “That went well,” he remarked sarcastically to no one in particular.

He let his thoughts wander, from the night he lost Anna to his forgiveness of the man who had taken her. A thought struck him, momentary fear piercing the veil of tiredness that blanketed his mind. “The reward! Thirty thousand gold coins... on me. Well, that should make things interesting.”

He fell back onto the grass under the tree, stared up at the bright crescent moon, and slept.


“Yeah, right. Like that actually could happen.”

The surly older woman didn't even look up from the wooden planks as she wiped them clean with an old rag. The young lady that worked alongside her didn't seem bothered by her disbelief.

“You just wait. He'll come for me, I know he will.”

“I'm just gonna tell you straight. This Micheal of yours ain't coming.”

The younger of the two looked up through the dirty window at the night sky. “He will, just you wait. I know it.”

The woman gave a grunting laugh. “Sure, and when he does I'll eat my dishrag. It ain't gonna happen.” She went back to scrubbing the floor in silence. The candles on the wall flickered eerily as the two worked side by side wordlessly for hours on end, like they did every night. The older woman eventually got up. “Ah, my back,” She shook her head. “This gets worse every night.”

“I'm sorry, Marie.”

The older woman looked at her, still shaking her head. “No, I'm alright now. I'd better be getting up to bed. You gonna finish up here?”

Her companion bent down low, concentrating hard on a single black stain. “Alright. I'll see you tomorrow then.”

The woman gave a crooked smile. “You're a good girl, Anna. Goodnight.” She walked slowly past the bar and up the stairs.

“Goodnight,” said Anna to the empty room.

After a few minutes, she looked up. Glancing around to make sure no one saw her, she walked slowly to the window. The dirty windowpane reflected the tears in her eyes. One small tear fell to the hardwood floor, then another as she gazed out at the moon, a pale crescent floating in the summer sky. She placed one hand against the glass.

“Micheal... Where are you?” Her green eyes searched what she could see of the sky. “I believe that you remember me... I'm waiting for you. Where are you?”

She received no answer from the empty air.

The tears fell faster as she slowly curled her hand into a fist. “Micheal... I'm waiting for you. Mara said you were looking, but...” She halfheartedly thumped her fist against the windowsill, sinking to her knees. “What if she was wrong?” She put her head in her hands, and the tears streamed down her arms onto her blue dress. “Micheal, please...”

Behind her, a lone candle flickered out.

“Anna? Are you alright?” Marie's voice came from behind her.

“Y-yes...” Anna said quickly, trying to pull herself together.

The older woman kneeled beside her on the stained floor. “Stop lying. If you were alright you wouldn't be crying. Now, tell me, what's wrong?”

“M-Mi...” Anna couldn't finish the word.

“Micheal?” She nodded. Deep sympathy etched itself across the older woman's face. “Ah, poor girl. Love is the cruelest of masters.” She gave Anna a small hug. Anna couldn't even smile. Marie tried to console her. “Hush... Hush... It'll be alright. Everything heals with time. Hush...” Nothing she could say seemed to help Anna as the tears washed through her soul. “Was he really that wonderful?”

“Yes...” The tears seemed to slow just a little. Marie took that as a sign she was on the right track.

“Tell me about him then.”

“Al-alright.” Anna paused a moment to collect her thoughts. “He was... kind. He didn't like people to see it, but he was. But he wouldn't like me to talk about that. He had a wonderful sense of humor...” She smiled as a memory flowed through her mind. “There was this one time when we were traveling alongside this huge lake. I tripped and fell in, and he tried to help me out, and I pulled him in with me... He looked so funny, standing in the lake with me, dripping wet. He looked surprised for a moment, and then he started laughing...” The sadness returned to her voice. “But now...” Anna trailed off, and tears began to flow again.

“I'm so sorry...”

“It's alright, it's nothing that you did. It's just... nothing.” Marie waited. She knew there was more to it then that. “But sometimes... waiting is so hard!”

“I might be wrong,” Marie said with a little smile, “but the best things in life are usually worth waiting for.”

Anna stared at her, speechless.

Marie bit her lip. She didn't want to say it. “He'll come. Just wait and see.” She stretched, yawning in the candle light. “But for now... we should probably get to bed.”

Anna pondered this for a moment more, then smiled. “You're right. You get off to bed, I'll put out the candles and be up in a moment.”

Marie slowly walked up the stairs once more. From the window of her bedroom, she looked out to the hill on the edge of town. Anna's blue dress was clearly visible as she stood on top of the hill, staring at the moon, waiting.

Marie offered a word to the starry sky. “Micheal, wherever you are... Don't you dare make a liar out of me.” With that, she turned and went to bed.


“Don't talk. Just give me all of your money, and no one gets hurt.”

Micheal felt a cold blade press against his throat. Clearly his attacker meant business He reacted instinctively and instantaneously, whipping his wings straight up into the air. The attacker never knew what hit him. The man was flung over Micheal's head and landed unceremoniously at his feet, blade still in hand.

“I wouldn't say no one gets hurt. You'd probably get hurt,” said the celestia brightly. Getting up, the man rushed at him with the knife, trying to stab him in the chest. Micheal stepped aside calmly. “Temper, temper,” he said with a small smile, twisting the knife free of the mans hand. With a small movement of his fingers, he snapped it clean in half. “If you hadn't done that, you'd still have your blade.”

“Filthy celestia! That was my only knife!”

Micheal dropped the shattered blade. It hit the ground with a clink. “You shouldn't have pointed it at me then.” He glanced at his attacker. “And, in all honesty, I'm not the filthy one here.”

The man attacked him again, using only his fists this time. Micheal stepped aside again, then whirled and pinned the man against the wall.

His attacker swore furiously. Micheal ignored it, calmly gazing at the man as he waited for him to stop struggling. Moments passed, and both the swearing and the struggling remained unabated.

“Hey, boss, you got the mone... What the?!” Micheal turned to see a terrified man standing at the end of the narrow alleyway, a shadow of fear on his face. “Wait... y-y-you're that celestia! Oh no...” The man turned and ran before Micheal could react.

Terrified yelling and the chaotic noises of a group of people panicking and running for their lives filled the air for a moment. Silence followed. When Micheal turned his attention back to his captive, he discovered an expression of terror on the man's face that seemed to be beyond mere words.

The man broke down crying. “P-please don't hurt me. I never meant any harm! It was a mistake, a stupid mistake, I'll never do it again!” he blubbered. “Have mercy, please, I'll do anything, anything! Just don't kill me!”

Micheal's eyes narrowed. “What are you talking...”

“We didn't hurt her! I promise, she's alive! I never meant to hurt anyone, it was a mistake, I don't know what we were thinking. It wasn't even my fault, it was all their idea, they made me go along with it. Please, please don't hurt me! I'll give you anything, anything at all, just ask and it's yours..”

“What are you...”

“We didn't...”

Memories suddenly flashed through Micheal's mind. The ambush, the fight, Anna crying his name in terror... And the face of the man who took her away, cruel and leering, enjoying her pain. A face full of malice and hate, a face that took joy in hurting someone who had never done anything to him, a face that had haunted his mind every moment of his life since. The same face that he now saw on this man.

“That was you!” he shouted, his voice full of rage. “You led the attack in the forest! You took Anna away from me!” His voice dropped to a whisper. “I remember you. You enjoyed seeing her fear, didn't you? You enjoyed her pain!” He threw the man to the ground. “You savored her struggling in your arms. You laughed as she cried out in desperation.” The man backed away, his terror meeting no sympathy in the celestia's blue eyes as Micheal walked slowly forward. “You took her away from me!”

“I-I'm sorry, it was a mistake! I'll never do it again, I promise!” The man was begging.

“Empty promises won't bring her back.” Micheal continued his slow advance towards the petrified robber. “Anna is gone, and you're the one responsible. She's gone!” He lifted the man up in the air, preparing to destroy him. “And now... you will be too.” The man closed his eyes, preparing for the end. But something seemed to catch Micheal's memory and he stopped, frozen by his own thoughts. “Anna... why? She was so gentle...” The robber was shocked to see tears form in his eyes. “She couldn't hate anyone... She would have forgiven you.”

“Sh-she would?”

“Yes. She'd give anyone a second chance, and it got her into more trouble than you could imagine...” A small smile escaped from the mask of anger and pain on his face. “But then, she forgave me too.” He looked at the man. “After all I did... If she could forgive me, maybe I can forgive you.”

“Really?” There was a glimmer of hope in the man's voice.

Micheal looked down, trying not to let the man see that he was crying. “Yes.” He let the man go. He dropped to the ground, then scrambled to his feet and started to run, but stopped. Micheal looked at him briefly before returning his gaze to the ground. “What are you waiting for? Get out of here before I change my mind.”

The man held his ground. “Sh-she's alive. We didn't kill her or anything bad like that...”

Micheal looked up. “Really?” He wiped away the tears that streamed down his face. Hope shone in him like a candle.

“Y-yeah. She's in a village to the east of the forest where we um...”

“Ambushed us.” Micheal finished the sentence for him.

“Yeah, that.”

Micheal smiled. “Thank you. That narrows down the search considerably.” He spread his wings as far as the alleyway would allow, obviously about to take flight, when he remembered something. “I do forgive you, but remember, never, ever, do anything like that again.” He narrowed his eyes. “Because if you do... you won't live long enough to hide from me.”

The man gulped. “Believe me, sir, I wasn't planning on it.”

“Good.”Micheal leaped into the air, above the rooftops of the houses on either side, and flew off into the night.

The man stared after him for a few minutes. “Now that's one promise I'd better keep,” he muttered to himself, and disappeared into the shadows.


“It's no use. He's forgotten me by now.”

The girl's brown hair dimly reflected the moonlight as the tears in her eyes sparkled like the stars above them. She tore her eyes away from the cloudless sky to look at the grassy hill beneath her. Her companion sat next to her, arms tucked into a green poncho, listening.

“ Then why do you still sit here?” the woman asked.

“When we used to travel together, he would always come from behind the moon to surprise me. So every night that I can get away I watch the moon from this hill. I keep hoping that he'll come and surprise me again, then take me away to somewhere beautiful. But he's forgotten me.”

“Why would he forget?”

“Why would he remember? I'm no one special. I don't even know why he bothered to know me in the first place.”

“He may see something more in you than you yourself do. I doubt that he's forgotten.”

“I try to hope, but... I don't even know if he's alive.”

“Did something happen that he might have been killed?”Concern was evident in the traveler's voice.

“Y-yes...” The tears started flowing down the girls face. “It was horrible...”

“Tell me about it.”

“I'm sure you don't want to know.”

“I'm sure I do. Tell me.”

The girl shivered. Her thin blue dress was far from enough to protect her from the nighttime chill. The tattered fabric had obviously seen better days. She stared down at the moonlit grass for a moment, collecting her thoughts.

“W-we were traveling...” she began with a stutter. “I didn't imagine that anything could happen to either of us, not with Micheal guarding me. He was so strong, and so brave...” The girl gained a wistful look in her green eyes as she talked about him. “He didn't like people to see it, but he was gentle and kind. He always kept his promises; he even promised to protect me forever. And he would have done it too...” The tears began to flow faster. “But then...”

She broke off with a sob. The traveler wrapped one arm around her, comforting her as she cried her feelings into reality. After a few moments, she gained the courage to speak again.

“Th-the forest. That way.” The girl pointed down the road to the west, the direction that the traveler had come from. “That's where it happened. It was dark, and the path was narrow. But I wasn't scared at all! I knew Micheal would do everything he could to protect me. But then there were so many of them... No way could he...” The tears overwhelmed her again.

“Take your time,” said the traveler.

“No, I'm alright,” the girl said, looking at the traveler again. “But when they attacked us, I got separated from Micheal. Three, maybe four were attacking him at once; h-he hardly had a chance to fight back. Those cowards... Why did they even attack us? We didn't do anything!” She grew suddenly quiet as the tears streamed down her face, staring at the grass once more. The angry flush in her cheeks quickly faded. “They were probably just afraid. I shouldn't judge them. Micheal wasn't human, you know.”

“He was a celestia?”

“Yes. A lot of people were afraid of him just because he was different. Not many people bothered to get to know who he was inside.” She looked back up at the stars. “But I can't imagine what my life would have been if I hadn't met him.” She smiled and stared up at the stars once more. “He... was the best thing that ever happened to me.”

The infinite stars held her attention for moments more as she moved through memory after memory of her time with him. Finally, her eyes focused on the moon again, and she looked away, crying.

“B-but they took me away. I don't know what happened to him because one of them dragged me off into the forest. I tried to get away, but the man was too strong; I couldn't break his grip. I called out for Micheal, and he tried to help me... but those cowards held him back as the man dragged me away. I don't know if he survived or not...” She trailed off as tears fell from her eyes like waterfalls.

The traveler sat with her, silently sharing her pain, for so long it seemed like forever. The sounds of nighttime floated through the air, the hoots of owls and the chirping of crickets mingling to form a symphony of stillness. Finally, she decided to say something.

“So what happened to you after that?”

The girl shrugged. “They brought me to this village, said that they had saved me from a monster. Sold me to the owner of the local bar. Since then I've just been trying to survive,” she said bitterly. “But I don't even really see the point in that anymore. He's either dead or he's forgotten.”

They sat in silence a while longer.

“Anna!” The shout rang out from the village below. “Get your lazy self back down here! We have customers!”

The color drained instantly from the girls face. “I-I'm coming, Marie!”

“Come faster! These drinks won't serve themselves!”

The girl stood, fear obvious in her every movement. She started running down the grassy hill when the traveler caught her shoulder.

“Did she just call you Anna?” she asked hurriedly.

“Y-yes, that's my name. I have to go!”

Recognition flashed across the traveler's face. “He hasn't forgotten you. I can guarantee it.”

Anna stopped in her tracks. She turned, disbelieving, to face the traveler. “You mean Micheal? He's alive?”

“Alive and searching for you. Wait for him. He's coming.”

There were no words to describe the joy that lit up Anna's face. Without a moments hesitation she embraced the traveler, smiling and laughing. “He's alive! He's alive!” she repeated over and over. The overwhelming radiance that seemed to stem from her joy lit up the air around her with an electric energy. “Thank you so much!”

“Anna!” The angry shout came again, louder this time.

The traveler gave a small smile under her floppy hat. “You'd better go,” she said, momentarily returning the embrace. “but don't forget what I told you. He remembers you.”

Anna pulled away. “Thank you! You don't know how much this means to me!”

“Anna! If you don't get down here right now...” The shouter seemed to be getting impatient.

She ran down the hill, waving to the traveler. “Thank you, Mara, Thank you!”

The traveler raised one eyebrow. “Mara? If I remember correctly that means... oh.” She smiled again. “Remembered.” She waved one final time to Anna, then turned and moved on.

Broken Angel

“I stopped sleeping a long time ago.”

The traveler stared at the huddled form in front of her. The blue eyed man seemed to be nothing more than a skeleton, covered in mud and soaking from the pouring rain. He made no move to find shelter. His once-proud wings slumped, their golden feathers covered in brown mud. The ordinary observer would hardly have noticed that they were there. This was no human. This was a celestia.

“Why?” asked the traveler, concerned.

“Nothing you need to know.”

“You have nothing to lose by telling me.”

“You have something to lose by knowing.”

“Come now, I’m sure it’s not that bad.” The traveler sat down on the edge of the road, facing her newfound companion. “We all have hard times now and then. I can understand.”

“No one could understand this.” The man turned his blue eyes to the ground, letting his white hair fall over his face. Raindrops splashed down from the angry clouds.

“You’ll never know until you tell someone.”

“You don’t want to share my pain.”

“You need someone to do it.”

“I’m not worth that.”

“Everyone’s worth something.”

“Everyone except for me.”

“Even you deserve sleep.”

“I deserve nothing.”

“Tell me. You may find more worth than you know.”

“I doubt it.”

“Try it. Tell me why you stopped sleeping.”

A moments pause ensued as the man seemed to consider this, eyes still downcast. Finally, he spoke.

“Every time I close my eyes, I see it again.”

“See what?”

“The moment I failed.”

The traveler waited. She knew there was more to the story than that. They sat for a moment in silence. “Failed what?” she finally asked.

“I failed to protect her.” A tear escaped the man as the memory overtook him. “She depended on me… I made a promise! I promised I would protect her! And I failed…” He clenched his teeth. “She was so kind, so gentle. And now she’s gone. She’s gone because I failed.” His fist slammed against the ground, sending mud flying into the air.

“What happened?” asked the traveler, compassion evident in her voice.

“We were traveling,” began her companion, “she was going home. We had to go through a thick forest. The path was very narrow, and it was dark.” A heavy sob choked him for a moment, and the traveler waited for him to continue. “We were about to stop for the night…” He sobbed again. “But we were attacked. There were so many, I couldn’t fight them all... One of them took her away, while I was trying to fight the others. My dear Anna... He took her into the forest. She was trying to get away, I saw her, but he was too strong. She called out for me, and then I never saw her again. If only I had been ready, if only I had been stronger, if only I had gone after the leader right away… she might still be with me. But she’s gone. She’s gone because I failed.” He became silent once again, tears joining the rain that flowed freely down his face. They sat for a long time like this, silent as the grave.

Rivulets of dark water ran silently across the dirt path. The rain fell harder, like great drops of sadness. Lightning lit the sky above the trees, the silvery-blue bolts etching their way across the heavens and reflecting in the water below. Thunder followed. It seemed like all the elements conspired to deny this man even the smallest amount of comfort.

“So that’s why you don’t sleep.”

“Yes.” He seemed to be trying to say something more, to put some indescribable anguish into words. The traveler gave him time. “Sleep is nothing but more pain. If I close my eyes, I see… that moment again. I see the tears running down her face. I…I hear her call my name; the anguish in her voice… She needed me. I failed her.” He looked up at the traveler, his eyes pleading that she understand. “I failed! Anna was the only one that ever understood what it meant to protect something, and now she's gone because I failed to protect her! I failed... She was the only one who ever cared, the only one that ever meant something. And I failed. I deserve this. I deserve to be miserable day after day, I deserve to search the forests endlessly, I deserve to never sleep again! I deserve to die!”

“You did all you could. Shouldn't that count for something?”

They sat silently for a time. It was clear that the man was contemplating this. Rain poured down unceasingly, rolling off of the traveler's green poncho before continuing their descent.

“Perhaps you did save her life. Maybe she's waiting for you to come and find her.”

The silence was again unbroken. She noted that the celestia wore a tattered white tunic crossed with a dark red belt and black pants that tucked neatly into mud splattered boots. Fairly normal attire for one of the angel-like beings that roamed the world. She knew that none of them had an easy life, despite their beauty. In fact, it was their beauty that gave them so much hardship. They were hunted for their golden wings, and for their usefulness as airborne spies. The robbers that ambushed this one had probably been after him instead of his friend, though it would do no good to tell him that. He might already know.

“Maybe...” he stammered, “Maybe... There is hope after all.” She heard longing in his voice, like a candle had been lit within his soul. “Just maybe... she's waiting for me.” A smile flickered across his face for a second. Tears still flowed from his eyes, but now there was a glimmer of life within him that had been so far away only moments ago.

He moved to stand. His golden wings spread out slightly, catching the light that made it through the gray clouds. They instantly seemed to blaze like fire, denying the rain. Every ray of sunlight was magnified a thousand times as it touched the feathers. There were no words to describe the sight. It seemed as though time itself stopped to look.

“Thank you, Rela.” The celestia word for traveler. He needed to search for words for only a second this time. “You have given me hope again.” With that, the celestia, seeming more and more like an angel by the second, leaped into the air and flew up into the clouds.

“Rela? Huh.” The woman smiled. “As good a name as any, I suppose. Better than some I've had.” She took one last long look at the clouds, and moved on.

I'm gonna spam my own blog now.

Ok, so in order to post new stories, I just realized that I need to post all of my old stories in the series for it to make any sense whatsoever. So, I'm about to do that. This is gonna be a lot of posts.

No more pride

This is a new adventure for me, I guess. I have a new blog. I might keep the old one, but... This one will probably be just for stories and poetry at first, but I might, after time, switch entirely to this one. Or I might just go back to Xanga.
Anyway, getting this blog was a big step for me. I had told a lot of people I wasn't gonna get a blogger blog, but I finally decided to do it, just because of what it offers. So explains the title of this post, I'm laying down the pride that kept me from doing what I really wanted to up until now. I hope I'll be doing this a lot more often soon, because it's nice to just say "Ok, you win, but I win more" but so often my pride keeps me from doing it.
There's another bright side to this new blog. I acutally set up my account all by myself, without any help from my brother whatsoever. I'm intending to keep it that way. And now this post will be up as long as the blog, so if I ever forget about that, I can look back at this and decide if I still think that I'm right.