Thursday, 29 June 2017

Here is the next excerpt from "Wings in the Wind..."

As the season of the blossoms passed, and stomachs were soon replete again, the call went up from eyrie to eyrie.
‘The trials! The time for the trial-flights of the Mawharhipi is come! Where are the Windlords? Where are the warriors?’
‘Yes!’ the Windlords agreed as they assembled at the Crag of Meeting. ‘It is time for the trials to begin.’ 

Messengers were sent to all champions and Perpetual Champions to make preparations. Warriors began their first trials under the watchful eyes of erstwhile champions. The winners of these progressed to the greater trials, overseen by the Perpetual Champions. These winners were called to the greatest race of them all.

ThunderWing watched from his cave as many young warriors sped by, practising their wing-strokes, dipping and twisting through practice courses as he had done countless times in the previous season. When he finally stood upon the Champion’s Stone with the Twig-of-Victory in his beak, the winner’s wreath around his neck and the crowds cheering hysterically around him, he thought he was equal to anything.
He sadly looked at himself in the drinking pool. Carefully, he tried flapping his slowly healing wing and sighed.

The day of the great race finally came, and excitement filled the air. 
The younger eaglets crowded along the ledges and crags that lined Mawharhipa valley, with the older eagles behind them. The best positions, of course, were soon taken by the officiating Windlords who soon arrived. The eaglets who had previously taken these hastily made way or were hustled away by their parents, but this privilege was not the least begrudged. 

As the great ones arrived, a chorus of welcoming cries and rustling wings arose.
‘Hail, Windlord StrongFeather, beloved father-of-many! Hail, Windlord WeatherWing the Wise, healer and prophet! Hail, Windlord FarSight, the Seer! Hail Windlord SwiftSlayer, mightiest of warriors! Hail Windlord BraveWing, Victor in Battle! Hail Windlord StormRider, Conqueror of the Tempest…….’ And the list went on.

When the Windlords had settled in their positions down the length of the course, the remotest Windlord, passed his signalling cry onto the next, and it continued down the course to Windlord StormRider, youngest of all Windlords, to whom the honour of officiating Mawharhipi WingTake was given that season.

StormRider was highly honoured amongst all the eyries, and songs of his Windlord Flight over the summit were sung at many feasts. It was said that an early storm had come when he was making his attempt upon the peak. Rather than retreat, he actually rode the upper winds of the storm, fulfilling the prophecy of FarSight the Seer who named him at birth.
Escaping the storm, StormRider ascended over the peak, escaping the clutches of dark Mawharikhn, who cowered from the threat of the warrior-storm below. But it had almost cost StormRider his life. Descending through the storm, he had been so badly buffeted and broken, he plummeted into the wooded valley below. 
He landed among the bushes and it was a full day before his friends, braving the unpredictable storm season, could find him – almost dead. Succoured by WeatherWing in Healing Cave, he eventually improved enough to fly again, but never fully recovered. One of his talons no longer functioned properly, and impeded his ability to hunt. 
Much to his chagrin, he had to be fed by the hunters and gatherers like StrongHand, son of HighSoarer. 
Nevertheless, he was considered a hero by all the young warriors, prompting him to warn them all against trying to emulate his exploit. This, however, did not stop him from relishing the challenge of storm-riding, when it was fairly safe to do so.
Remarkably, his exploits never went to his head. 
He was one of those who often agitated for justice to all the Mawh’eyri folk at Windlord council, which added to his popularity.

StormRider now perched a little awkwardly on the crag that overlooked WingTake Mesa, the starting and finishing point for the race. He spread his wings and sang the Song of Summoning, soon taken up by the spectators.

Come O warrior tried and true!
Honour and glory awaits for you!
Spread now your wings, show forth your great skill,
That you may stand upon Champion’s Hill.

And the young warriors appeared from all directions. They were strong, proud and often seasoned warriors, all hopeful of winning honour for their eyries – maybe even bearing the greatest honour of all one day: a Windlord’s mark upon his beak.
They alighted upon the Mesa, one by one from the youngest to the oldest, loudly proclaiming their lineage, their exploits and their eyrie’s war cry.

Last of all came NightFlyer, son of Windlord SwiftSlayer, and paraded himself around the edge of the mesa with his handsome wings fully stretched, proclaiming himself as “….fairest of warriors, greatest of hunters, swiftest in the mountains and Windlord-to-be!”
The other warriors muttered among themselves at these boasts, furious at his presumption. It had been recognized that StrongHand, son of HighSoarer the Fallen, had become recognized as the best and most cunning hunter. Eyes turned toward NightFlyer’s father, Windlord SwiftSlayer, but he stood in his position, proud and aloof. There was little love lost between father and son, but the father did not show any emotion at all.

One bold and budding young warrior sang out from among the spectators:
‘But where is ThunderWing Mawharhipi? Is he not among you all?’
He was hushed by his mother, but much fluttering of wings among the gathering followed, indicating that the question needed an answer.
‘ThunderWing, son of HighSoarer, has declined to fly in the trials.’ announced StormRider, looking annoyed at the breach of protocol. ‘His fall at the Great Mountain has impaired his flight, and he surrenders his title as Mawharhipi this season. He wishes all warriors well, that the Spirit-Wind may be with your wings.’

A ripple of disappointment went through the crowd. NightFlyer glowered.
None had ever forgotten the thrilling finish in the previous season’s race when the young eagle seemed to drop from the sky. He snatched the Twig of Victory from right under NightFlyer’s open beak. The lay was sung in every eyrie (except SwiftSlayer’s) and many feasts for many moons following.

The proceedings continued, and the traditional Singer of Ceremonies was summoned.
It was GoldSinger, daughter of StrongFeather who came forward and alighted next to StormRider. Another rustle of astonishment went through the crowd. None more so than the disapproval among the competitors.

‘But where is SilverSong the Fair, daughter of Windlord StrongFeather, and greatest of singers?’ NightFlyer called out, totally disregarding all etiquette.
‘We shall have no more flouting of the traditions, young warrior!’ came the stern reply from the crag. StormRider glanced hesitatingly, almost in embarrassment, up the valley where he could just make out StrongFeather’s outline on one of the furthest crags.
‘SilverSong, daughter of Windlord StrongFeather cannot come,’ he informed them all, ‘for she teaches many eaglets in the ways of the WindSong in the Northern Mountains. GoldSinger, her sister, has consented to take her place at our request.’

A collective sigh of disappointment went up from all the warriors. SilverSong was considered the favourite, partly because of her transcendent beauty, and her lively, laughing style of performance was more appealing to any eyrion. However, most of the civilian spectators considered that GoldSinger had the better voice. Nor were they disappointed.

GoldSinger did not envy her sister’s beauty, for the family of that eyrie was a close-knit community. She had learned everything SilverSong could teach her of the ways of the WindSong, and had surpassed her in technical quality at least. She was surprised at her sister’s reluctance, but considered it an honour to take her place.

Spreading back her wings, she attuned her voice to the breeze and began to sing. She sang the traditional ballad sung at the beginning of every formal gathering of the Mawh’eyri.
It was the tale of the coming of their tribe to the mountains at the bidding of the great Spirit-Wind. She sang of their third lord-chieftain, WideWing the Wanderer and his nest-mate MotherWind the Wise who tamed the feuding of the Mawh’eyri warriors, bringing the eyries together under a common law. 
She sang of the rise of the Windlords, who took over responsibilities from the traditional chieftains, reformed and enforced the laws and scratched them on the Stones of Judgment. 
She sang of the rise of the warrior class, and the united battles against the invasions of the wild eagles, the Hrah’eyri , who outnumbered them but were defeated by the Mawh’eyri under Windlord BrightWing the Brave. The enemy had seldom returned since, except on raids on the outlying eyries. But the local warriors were vigilant.
She also sang of the terrible Storm Season, of the coming of the Great Black Storm and his minions, most of whom were slain by the pursuing White Winds. All the people of the Mawh’eyri  hid in their eyries in fear as the war raged all around them, and even in those later days, they shudder at its memory. 
The Black Storm finally found refuge in the caves of the Great Mountain, even though he was constantly under siege by the mighty servants of the Great Spirit Wind, especially at the waning of the year. The dark one was renamed Mawharikhn, dark prisoner of the mountain, even though he himself considered it his domain when the White Warrior Winds were far away.
But the darkest times passed, and the Mawh’eyri came to accept the dangers of their perilous neighbour. It was even considered a greater honour for a champion eyrion to conquer the Mountain and outwit its terrifying resident as well. For many seasons it seemed as if he slept, leaving them all in peace.

On that note, GoldSinger ended her song.
A hushed and reverent silence followed.
GoldSinger then lifted her head, and struck up the Anthem of the Mawh’eyri. Soon they all joined in, with the harmonies flowing all the way down the valley and echoing throughout the mountains.

None of them noticed the lonely and ragged young eagle behind the crowds as he quietly took wing, wearily, awkwardly and sadly labouring his way toward Healing Cave.

Sunday, 12 March 2017

Excerpt from "Wings in the Wind", Chapter 2: In the Caves of Healing.

ThunderWing was dozing, but awoke to the sounds of wings approaching.

A vision of beauty, one that constantly haunted his dreams,appeared at the entrance.
She was the loveliest eagle-maiden he had ever seen—a princess among the Mawh’eyri, with faultless golden plumage, delicate markings and graceful carriage. Her wingstrokes were like joyous laughter. Her eyes were both as brilliant and liquid as the sun shining through the mountain waterfall, as soft and tender as a dove´s.
Her voice, upon entering the cave, was a song like the soft sighing of a spring breeze.

As she alighted next to him, the fragrance of her feathers, brushed with aromatic herbs, washed over him like warm river-streams in summer.

At one sight of her, ThunderWing gaped and swallowed with deep longing.
He raised himself awkwardly to bow in greeting, dismally aware of his unsightly state, and then sank down in shame and hopelessness.
She brushed him with a teasing sweep of a laughing wing to get his attention again.
He tried to rise, but she stayed him.
Standing before him, she bowed gracefully with wings spread, as an eaglet would do homage to a great Windlord.

‘Hail, ThunderWing Mawharhipi, mighty warrior who defies the black storm!
Hail, he who shall be Windlord hereafter!’

Her very voice sounded to him like the trickling music of a pure mountain rivulet.

‘Hail, SilverSong the Fair!’ he replied, both gratified and mystified by the tribute. He bestirred himself again and sat up.

‘Do you honour a fool with your presence? Why do you bow in homage? I will never be a Windlord as was my father. I am not worthy of you. Surely NightFlyer, my rival, may now claim you.’

SilverSong gave a musical laughing cry and butted ThunderWing playfully with her shining golden head.

‘O foolish one. NightFlyer shall never be my nest-mate. Do not demean yourself, for I know you. We have been wingfellows, you and I, since our fi rst fl ights together. Did you not guide me and protect me when I fell on my first flight? Have you not won great honour amongst the Mawh’eyri? Are you not Swiftest in the Mountains? You are destined to soar over the Great Summit, and my song shall soar with you.’

ThunderWing raised his head again in disbelief. He felt as though he had been shot skyward by a powerful updraught, and was floating on the clouds.
‘SilverSong! Is this true? You will choose me in despite of my folly? In spite of my shame?’

She nestled her head against his and crooned,
‘When I heard of your fall, and your wish to choose me, it was then that I knew you were the only nest-mate for me, Windlord or no. I came wingfleet from the Northern Mountains when my father spoke of your plight.’

She turned away in embarrassment and stared out across the valley towards the distant Northern Mountains.
‘Indeed, I have been the fool. Do you remember the time when I came among you all in the Southern Hills during the Mawh’ree trials? You saw me little at first, for you had eyes only for your goals in the trials—even when I called to you, playfellow!’

‘I…I did not recognize you,’ he protested feebly. ‘It was two long seasons since we parted as playfellows in the Western Mountains. I had not realized how beautifully you had blossomed as the mountain moonflower. When I realized who you were, it was then I knew that whatever was needed to win your favour, I must do it. It gave strength to my wings and hands, and soon only NightFlyer among them all could match me!’

She smiled, sighed, and regarded him with tender mockery in her brilliant eyes.
Eyrionis! You are all such strange creatures! Well, you seemed to be no longer my playfellow, so I turned my attention to others. There I saw many friends of my youth among the eyrierë, strutting and simpering like the Mirror-birds of the valleys, displaying their feather-dyes before me, tittering and chirping at me that I refused such vanities. Yet I became the warriors’ favourite at the fi rst trials! Some even laid a tail feather before me. My friends were furiously jealous! I revelled in the adulation of all the warriors, and my vanity grew when NightFlyer turned his proud face toward me. I was flattered and blinded by his attentions, for he is the fairest of warriors—this I will allow. Many eyrierë swooned over him and I, SilverSong, had conquered his cold heart, him who despised them all! Truly, it was his overweening pride that caused me to weary of him. Then I saw your valour at the games. I rejoiced at your victory at the Mawharhipi trials. All still sing of the final moment when you snatched the twig of victory from before NightFlyer’s open beak!’

She turned and faced him again, shaking her lovely head at her own folly.
‘I thought it was merely our old friendship that drew me to you, as well as your prowess, which I honour indeed. But I was weary of Night-Flyer and the adulation at the warrior games. I was weary of the jealousies and vanities of my friends. I longed for the soothing Songs of the Wind in the Northern Mountains, not knowing my own heart. But when your mother spoke of your longing for me and of your fall, my heart awoke, seeing you as you truly are….’

She nestled her head next to his again, crooning musically.
‘….. My protector, the dear friend of my youth, the mighty warrior destined for great things; the lovesick fool who would risk his life for the sake of one eyreira; the poor, broken shell of an eaglet who now needs a lifting wing; an honest heart that has learned from his folly and humbled his pride. That…is the nest-mate that I look for, my love.’

ThunderWing felt a warmth in his heart and a lump in his throat. He did not know what to say to such a declaration. It was a love that went beyond mere admiration. This wonderful and beautiful eagle-maid took him for what he really was! It was more than he deserved.

But it was useless. He bowed his head again in sorrow.
‘But the laws of the Mawh’eyri are not readily changed. I will neither have the armour nor the strength to attempt the mountain in the coming season. If NightFlyer conquers the peak, he will claim you as is his right, and this our blossoming love-flight cannot come to fruition.’

SilverSong stepped back, scorn and resolution in her eye and stance.
‘NightFlyer? He is nothing but a boasting fool! Cruel, proud and heartless! He deems me to be his nest-mate already! How I came to think the same in seasons gone by, I know not. This I have considered, my Windlord, my beloved. If that black crow should try to claim me, I shall flee the mountains and forsake the eyries of the Mawh’eyri, and live in solitude in the forests and hills beyond the Western Marches. You may join me there, if you will. We shall make nest in the highest trees or the darkest caves, far away from the tyranny of our law.’

ThunderWing shook his head in dismay.
‘This you must not do, SilverSong, my beloved! It is perilous! Nature has not armed us for such a life. It is the realm of Hauraugh, the black beast of the four talons, who has the spirit and voice of Mawharikhὺn within him. They say there are many sharp stones within his very beak. He has the stealth of the mountain spider and flies without wings upon his prey. And what of the wild eagle’s tribes, the Hrah’eyri? Their warriors would take you by force!’

‘I will abide the peril. Better that than as nest-mate to NightFlyer the Merciless.’

ThunderWing tried a gentler persuasion.
‘My fairest, my wing-love, what of your eyrie? Of the memory of WindSinger your mother? What of your father, good Windlord Strong-Feather? It would drive him to the Crag of Shame where he would moult to his death! Your singer eaglets of the Northern Mountains? Your wingfellows and songfellows? Will they not all grieve?’

SilverSong turned away and wept.
‘All this I know! But they would be lost to me also if I am Night-Flyer’s nest-slave. He is a cruel tyrant, and slew his brother when he was young, deny it if he will! What else do I hope for?’

ThunderWing bowed again. It all seemed hopeless.

Then she shook the tears from her eyes and returned to her defiant stance.
‘But you alone are my hope! I will flee these mountains if NightFlyer reigns. But if you conquer the great peak when your robe and armor is restored to you, then you shall be Windlord! You may choose whom you will. Seek me then, and I will return as your nest-mate!’

ThunderWing took a deep breath at this. He spread his shattered wings, ignoring the pain in his shoulder. Head high, he gave his eyrie’s war-cry:
“Highest heart! Highest flight!”

He settled again before her and bowed the bow of an eagle’s oath-taking.
‘SilverSong the Fair, my wing-love, this I swear by the wings of the sun, by the flight of the moon: I will conquer great Mawharikhan, though it take many moons, many seasons—or die! If I do not fail, I will come and find you wherever you are and make you Reigning Lady of the Mawh’eyri, as you are meet to be. Flee if you must, but let this be a token of our troth.’

He pulled out the last of his old tail-feathers and laid it before her talons. She bowed in return.
‘I accept your token, Windlord ThunderWing the Great, and will keep it in great honour in my eyrie’s nest until the day I must leave. If I flee, look for me in the highest cave of the Wailing Hills above the forest of the West. Even Hauraugh himself fears the haunting song of the Raven Winds there.’

She nibbled at his beak as she prepared to leave.
‘Farewell my wing-love, for the moment. Do not lose heart. I will make song to the Great Spirit-Wind for you.’

‘May the Great Spirit-Wind bear you upward, O SilverSong, fairest, sweetest and bravest of all eyrierë! Farewell!’

A graceful sweep of her wings, and she was gone.

This meeting, and subsequent visits sustained him through all the remaining recovery period. These were not many, for the tradition of the Mawh’eyri frowned upon overt courtship, and she was in demand in the Northern Mountains.

Tuesday, 29 November 2016

Here is the next episode of the adventures of ThunderWing, warrior eagle of the mountains of Mawha.

ThunderWing´s sense of exaltation was short-lived.

 A few days later, a strong young warrior appeared in the entrance of the cave without giving the customary cry of entry.
He was a little larger than ThunderWing, his plumage a rich combination of olive and metallic bronze, with black markings. Perfectly proportioned, he was considered the handsomest of all the warriors of his tribe. He was also the proudest and most arrogant, with the tongue, so it was said, of the serpent.

He stood there for a moment, beak held high, his very stance an insult.
ThunderWing glanced at him from his recumbent position and looked away again, not even bothering to greet his unwanted visitor. The Mawh’eyri code of civility was seldom practiced between bitter rivals, although the warrior´s code of honour was normally strictly adhered to.

‘Hail, Winglost ThunderWing, the broken, the fallen, the presumptuous fool!’ the visitor cried, mockingly. ‘Did you trip and fall upon your beak?’

Stony silence was all the answer he received. 

‘What is this?’ continued the sarcastic voice as he hovered over the wounded eagle.
‘Did the dark wind take your tongue also? Very well. If you would attempt the peak before your time, little eaglet, and awaken the evil wind in your blundering, it is little wonder that you lie naked and broken before me. You are a fool to even think of challenging me: NightFlyer, son of SwiftSlayer, lord of hunters, fairest and strongest of the warriors of the mountains!’

There was still no answer or even movement from his rival, so Night-Flyer prepared to leave.
‘So! It is fitting to keep respectful silence before me, featherlost little egg-chick, for I am destined to be both Mawharhipi and Windlord when the season of the hunt comes again. There shall be none to rival and cheat me of victory in the wing-trials then.’

He spread his wings wide and his voice filled the caves and thevalley.
‘I shall then conquer Mawharikhan, and claim SilverSong the Fair as my own! I shall be the lord of the mountains of Mawha!’

This was too much for ThunderWing to take. He roused himself to some semblance of dignity, spreading his ragged wings in challenge.
‘Will the fair SilverSong take you for nest-mate? I think not, O NightFlyer Wind-Beak, boaster of great boasts! Your very arrogance shall be as rotting meat in her nostrils.’

‘Oh, will you challenge me still, robeless one?’ sneered the other, turning back to face him. ‘Your loss upon the peak has not given you wisdom? She cannot resist NightFlyer the strong, fairest of warriors, greatest of hunters, Swiftest in the Mountains and Reigning Windlord-to-be. Do not forget that a Windlord who conquers the peak has the right to choose—nor you, nor even she can gainsay it. If she is unwilling, I shall take her by force, and not even StrongFeather, her father, can gainsay our laws, nor the will of Windlord NightFlyer Mawharhipi.’

Something exploded inside ThunderWing’s breast.

He hopped and hobbled over and stood beak to beak with his rival, his remaining feathers fully extended in fury.
‘You will have neither title, proud and cruel wind-beak boaster! Am I not ThunderWing Mawharhipi by right of victory? Have I not escaped the clutches of the Black Storm? And caused him to be banished from our mountains? And if you take the fair SilverSong by force, I shall call Mawharagh upon you!’

Such was NightFlyer’s astonishment at this challenge, he sat back upon his tail feathers. He threw his head back and laughed aloud.
Mawharagh?? Mawharagh between us? There are no bounds to your boasting, your folly, little quail! Look upon your image when you drink from the pools, little featherlost fool. Even had you the armor and the strength to do battle, by our laws you cannot challenge a champion warrior.’

It was seldom among the Mawh’eyri that such warrior rivalries ever ended in these terrible mountain duels to the death, the Mawharagh. The Windlords that presided over these disputes generally did their utmost to settle them peacefully. Occasionally, some warriors would contend by non-combative contest over the choicest eyrie or the fairest lady among the eagles.

No one, especially the eldest among them, ever wanted to return to the barbaric days when they first settled in the mountains. Eyrie had fought eyrie over territorial rights. Many fine eagles fell in battle until wisdom prevailed. Laws were agreed upon and then scratched on the Stones of Judgment upon Windlords’ Crag. Spontaneous squabbles
that turned to blood-letting were dealt with ruthlessly, both parties summarily expelled from the mountains for a season. If one was determined to be at fault (confirmed by the testimony of witnesses), he or she was sometimes banished forever. If the crime was considered by the Council to be worthy of death, the offender was set upon by designated warriors.

ThunderWing had to acknowledge the truth of NightFlyer’s response, and sank down in a despairing heap again.
A champion named Swiftest in the Mountains was held in such high honour—a Windlord even more so—that he was immune from any challenge of that kind by an inferior. It was law.
If NightFlyer won the racing trials that season, he would be considered a champion. If ThunderWing had his feathers and strength intact, and he still attacked NightFlyer for fair SilverSong’s sake, he would be cast out of the mountains forever, if not executed. What use would he be to the Fair One then?

‘Farewell, pathetic little raven-chick,’ jeered the serpent’s tongue.
He swung one of his wings, knocking ThunderWing to the floor, then laughed out loud again.
‘Grovel for worms if you must. I go to my destiny as Windlord and to claim SilverSong as my own.’
He filled the cave with his eyrie’s war-cry, and swept away into the distance.

The moons passed.
ThunderWing wearily and sadly watched from the cave’s entrance as the mountainsides slowly shed their white down of winter and clothed themselves with the green feathers of spring, tinged with the colours of the blossoms. He watched the lesser birds come and go in their endless hunting and gathering. He even befriended a pair of doves, sharing scraps of his meat with them.
The Mawh’eyri normally ignored lesser birds, though they protected them. That is, unless they became a nuisance.

He was healing rapidly, being exceptionally strong amongst the young warrior-eagles. He was gradually shedding or pulling out his older, damaged plumage, and beginning to grow new, stronger feathers. His shoulder was still tender, but it had been well treated by a skilled healer, and he could fly short distances. He had even begun to hunt and gather for himself again, to a limited extent.

He meditated much on the wise counsel his mother gave him on her frequent visits, and felt comforted by the honour in which he was held by the Mawh’eyri Windlords and his own eyrie. Yet all this honour was nothing to the loss of any chance of winning the eyreira who had become an obsession to him ever since she had returned from the Northern Mountains.
Without her, he had lost all motivation to strive for greatness. He felt he could do little else than serve the eyries as hunter and gatherer like his brother did, removing his warrior’s mark. At least that had some true honour in itself, little though it was regarded by tradition.

However, to his surprise, his mother still spoke of a future conquering of the great peak.
He just shook his head.
‘I am no longer as high of heart as my father, O my mother. I will join my brother in the hunts to serve the eyries, if he will. That is honour enough for one such as I.’

‘It is true that before greatness comes lowliness, even as a bird must swoop downward to soar the highest. Remember that the caves of the Great Summit Mawharikhan are clear of the great enemy because of your attempt. But also mark this: To soar the highest is indeed your destiny, my son. I have heard it on the voice of the Great Wind.’

He could only shake his head in sad disbelief.
His mother did not press him, but paid a visit to Windlord’s Crag and spoke privately to StrongFeather.

This resulted in a surprise visitor to Healing Cave.

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Another excerpt from "Wings..." Chapter 2: In the Caves of Healing

‘I have failed. I should have listened to my brother’s counsel, and to yours, mother. I am not worthy to be HighSoarer’s son. I have brought dishonor to our eyrie.’

He hid his head under his shattered wing.
He was slowly regaining strength and plumage in Healing Cave. He was healing in body, but not
in soul. His mother and another Windlord, skilled in healing, were in attendance.

‘Already NightFlyer taunts me from the cave’s mouth,’ the broken eagle lamented, ‘saying I am fit only as servant-gatherer for the Mawh’eyri folk. And he speaks the truth. He shall win SilverSong as his own, and I shall live forever in shame. Why was I not left to die within Resting Cave,
or left as prey for black Mawharikhὺn?’

‘You have not forfeited your honour, my son, for you attempted the peak in spite of all,’ insisted LightWind reassuringly, smoothing and straightening his remaining feathers. ‘There are many young warriors that dared not.’

‘They dared not because they were not fools and failures, as I am,’ came the bitter reply. ‘I no longer have the will, nor strength and skill. Now my last hope to shine is blown away in the storms of despair!’

‘Your father also first failed,’ his mother calmly replied, ‘because he placed his confidence in his strength and skill rather than upon the great Wind-Spirit. Yet he held fast to his hope.’

‘He failed?’ ThunderWing lifted his head from under his wing in surprise. ‘I did not know this. And did not his failure bring him shame?’

‘He also was young and eager, and swore that he would win me as his nest-mate. He would not wait for counsel. He attempted times many. Mawharikhὺn slept, but your father was defeated by the first Wild Storms of the tempest season, those that do not heed the ambitions of our young warriors, nor the war waged by the Great White Winds. When the time of the blossoms came, he returned, but bowed to the counsel of a Windlord: WindVoice-of-Good-Counsel it was—and learned the ways of the great Wind-Spirit for many moons. Then he triumphed.’

ThunderWing was silent as he dwelt upon his mother’s words. It was the first time in a long while since he had listened to her, and gave thought to her counsel.

The Windlord-healer looked up from his task of applying special earth and herbs to the wounds.
He was WeatherWing the Wise, highly respected among the greatest of the Mawh’eyri, renowned as much for his skills in healing and gift of prophecy as he was for his skills of war. When he spoke, the Mawh’eyri listened.
‘Know also, ThunderWing, son of HighSoarer the Great: Your battle with Mawharikhὺn the Accursed is a lay that is sung in many eyries. For Windlord StrongFeather witnessed it from afar, fearful for your safety, but marvelled that you outwitted such a cunning and mighty foe for so long.’

The wise eagle flew over and settled in front of his patient to address him in the manner of a Windlord-messenger with momentous news.
‘Hear me now also, ThunderWing Mawharhipi! Your seeming rashness in your attempts in this last moon of the gathering season has served us all well. We, the Windlords had not foreseen it, but it came to pass that the first storm of the tempest season came earlier than before. This one had been sent by the great Spirit-Wind. It was Mawharhitan, the White Whirlwind of the mountains, amongst the greatest of the warrior-winds.
He came hunting the Black One on the mountain side, as it has often come to pass. But forever the demon-storm has escaped and hidden within his mountain. This time, you drew him forth away from
any chance to escape the wrath of the White Whirlwind. The pride of the black one defeated him, for his hunting skill was as the great black spiders of the rocks. He would leap from his lair, grasp, and retreat to his dark hole again. Even your father, the greatest of all Windlords in flight, came to grief at his hand, although he evaded capture. Mawharikhὺn has seldom failed to bring down his prey. Your skill and speed foiled him, and that he could not bear. In the folly of his pride, he followed you
long and far, then encountered Mawharhitan who overcame him before he could take you. Now he has been overthrown and is banished forever from the mountains of Mawha!’

ThunderWing gasped.

‘So you see, O my son, that you have brought honour to our eyrie, not shame!’ sang his mother, relaxing some of her poise to spread her fine wings in exaltation.

‘Honour indeed!’ continued the Windlord. ‘For this was the very matter before Windlords’ Council at your arrival. It was in debate amongst us that if a warrior storm was sent, some of us should try to bait Mawharikhὺn and draw him forth from his lair. But some of us would have perished in the attempt, perhaps even Windlord StormRider the Bold, who has outwitted many a Wild Storm-Spirit, and who offered to lure the enemy forth. You have saved us in your seeming rashness, and now the mountains shall be free of terror for many moons and many seasons. It was for this reason that we carried you here and tended your wounds. We ask that you come before Windlords’ Council when you are whole again, that we may offer you our thanks.’

ThunderWing was overwhelmed. He struggled to his feet and tried to bow before the Windlord, but staggered and fell again. His mother insisted that he stay lying down.

‘I am honoured with many honours, Windlord, fallen fool though I am,’ said ThunderWing. ‘I will come before the Council when I can, if you so bid me.’

Then he sighed and lowered his head to the earth again.
‘Yet even these honours are second in my sight to the right of choosing my own nest-mate. That is now denied me.’

‘Well, the law of the Mawh’eyri is not easily changed,’ acknowledged the Windlord regretfully. ‘But you have won much honour even without the title of Windlord. I counsel you to be content.’

The Windlord soon departed, and his mother soon left also, but not without leaving a gift of two fat hares.
‘…….. Caught for you by your brother, StrongHand, for he also holds you in honour, in brotherhood and in fellowship.’

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Here's another excerpt from my new publication "Wings in the Wind: The Reign of the Mawh'eyri."

Although he did not lack determination and persistence, Thunder-Wing found it far more difficult than he anticipated. The higher he flew, the thinner the air, and it became an intolerable burden to beat his wings.

In spite of the risks of awakening the demon-storm within the mountain, he rested on many crags on the way up. But each time he looked upward, his heart sank, for it seemed as though he was no nearer the summit than when he began.

Day after day, he doggedly strove upward, rested, then pushed upward again. At last, nightfall forced him to return to Resting Cave for the next day’s attempt. The designated supply of food was diminishing, but he ate little in any case so that he was not unduly weighed down.

One day he made it to the highest crag yet in all his attempts.
He rested a long while. His breath came in desperate gasps in the thinning air.
All of a sudden, he felt strange stirrings in the air. His mother had warned him about unfamiliar winds.
‘But I, ThunderWing Mawharhipi will outfly all strange winds!’ he panted defiantly.
Then he heard the unmistakable warning call of a Windlord from below.
‘Danger! Return to Resting Cave! Dark clouds come! Beware the tempests!’
He hesitated, for he could just see his goal, the Great Summit Mawharikhan, before it was wreathed in fast-moving clouds.
It was so close, he thought, almost within his grasp.
‘ThunderWing Mawharhipi will outfly any strange clouds!’ he declared defiantly.

Gathering all his courage, strength and skill, he leapt into the air once again, his eyes fixed on the great peak looming near. The air was so thin, he was breathing hard and fast, but he held on, unwavering.
So fixed was his gaze, he did not notice the huge, dark cave he was passing. It was like the menacing mouth of a great beast, with jagged teeth-like rocks at its entrance.

Suddenly, without warning, he was enveloped in howling darkness.
Mawharikhὺn had awakened!
It seemed as if the demon-wind had indeed watched for him, and waited for him within the mouth of his cave, as StrongFeather had warned him.

A thick black cloud in the shape of a gloating vulturine face turned towards him, crowned with whirlwind horns and eyes of balled lightning, glowing with hatred of all living things that defied him.
His monstrous, bat-like cloudy wings began to wrap around his prey.
ThunderWing knew he was doomed, for no eagle had ever out-flown the dreaded demon-lord of the peak and lived.
Huge black misty claws reached out to grasp the little eagle, and he cried out in fear.

Then he quickly remembered the maneuver that had saved him from attack by the warriors of the Wild Eagle raiders. (It had also given him the final advantage over NightFlyer in the race through
the valley.)
He quickly folded his wings and dropped like a stone, spreading wings again only to change course or add speed to his descent. The demon-wind, screaming in fury as he saw his prey slip through his fingers, turned and soared downward after him.

Desperately hoping to outrun the demon-storm and find shelter, ThunderWing dodged around boulders and crags, toward the mountain pass.
He had already expended too much strength that day to use his wings effectively, but he managed to avoid capture purely through his manoeuvrability, for which he was famed among his

Nonetheless, his enemy knew the mountains too well to be outwitted for long.
Zooming around the opposite direction of one rocky outcrop, he almost had him as they collided on the other side.
A split second swerve only just saved ThunderWing from the enemy’s clutches.
But Mawharikhὺn was also a master of winds. He blew at his quarry with all his strength, loosening rocks and stirring up the air all around them.
A sudden updraft from this made ThunderWing lose balance. A sharp fragment of loosened stone flew at him, glancing him on the shoulder.
The pain of it caused him to cry out. But his courage rose whenever an impossibility challenged his resolve. He was, after all, the son of Windlord HighSoarer.
‘May the White Warriors take you, accursed demon! Slay me if you can!’

One wing was now almost useless. He dropped again. His enemy pursued, his dark breath preceding him. Another gust struck him like a body blow from a monstrous fist and threw him against the far cliff face of the mountain.
Feathers scattered as ThunderWing, dazed, plummeted toward a familiar valley where he saw Resting Cave. He had just enough feathers to break his fall, although the break in his left wing hurt terribly.

He lay in a dazed heap, but his ordeal was not over yet.
He heard a rumbling sound above him, so he struggled to his feet, expecting to feel cold, black fingers take him and crush the life out of him.

Although he heard howling and thundering above him, the final blow did not come.
Once again, the strange breezes he had ignored before blew around him.
Whirling white clouds gathered above. It grew darker still.
Thunder and lightning echoed around the valley and a torrent of rain came down, causing the cave entrance to teem with running water.

Screams, howls and roars filled the air. It seemed as if war was unleashed among the mountain peaks. It had often been said among the Eyri of the Central Mountains that the Wild Tempests would rage
against each other as they fought like wild beats for supremacy in the mountain passes.
Mawharikhὺn had always prevailed over the rest, being stronger and far too cunning.
ThunderWing had heard of the battles between the Wild Tempests in the mountains, but he had lived too far away to be concerned about them.
Perhaps the demon-storm would be too occupied to continue the chase. Perhaps he was safe at last.

Then he heard the rumbling again, but not the sound of moving air this time.
He looked up to see a large torrent of snow and rocks rapidly descending upon him, down the slope.
As a malicious parting blow, the demon-storm had unleashed an avalanche upon him.

Desperately, ThunderWing half flew and half staggered toward the entrance nearby. He only just made it inside as moments later, the cave filled with white snow-mist before the light faded completely.

He was safe for the moment, but that now meant nothing to him.
He gave a cry of despair.
‘I have lost all! My honour, my wing, my hope! Oh, if I had only been slain by black Mawharikhὺn!’

The roar of the tumult outside was now less than the roaring tumult inside his head, his labouring lungs, the hopelessness in his heart and the throbbing pain of his left wing.
He finally lost consciousness.

Watch this space for another episode of "Wings in the Wind."
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Monday, 3 October 2016

Excerpt from "Wings in the Wind: The Reign of the Mawh'eyri." from Chapter 1: Mawharhikan

It was not merely the height that daunted most eagles, but it was spoken in Windlords’ lore that the lord of all demon-storms, Mawharikhὺn slept within the mountain peak.
Prouder than the proudest eagle, he ruled the lands with fear. He rarely ventured forth in those days, partly for fear of the mighty servant-winds of the Great Spirit Wind, who hunted for him.
However, he hated the proud wingfolk of the mountains who would not acknowledge his lordship. It was said that High-Soarer, ThunderWing’s father, had fallen to his death after being struck by Mawharikhὺn in one of his rampages. ThunderWing still bore the grief from the day that the Windlord messenger brought the news of his death.

‘I defy you, evil Mawharikhὺn!’ he called fiercely as he watched a dark cloud sweep across the great peak. ‘You shall be humbled, though I fall in the attempt.’

His challenging call, similar to that of eagles about to do battle, echoed across the valley. As if in answer, a distant rumble emanated from within the great peak itself.

This distracted the Windlord Council, and they glanced in his direction.
The eldest of them spread his wings and flew across to his perch.
ThunderWing knew the old eagle well. He had a few bald patches and scars. His remaining feathers were rough, but he still flew strongly and held his head proudly. They bowed to each other and Thunder-Wing’s beak touched the rock before his senior in deep respect, for he stood before none other than StrongFeather, Father-of-Many, Lord of the Western Crags.
Not the least of his children was SilverSong the Fair.

‘Hail, ThunderWing Mawharhipi, son of HighSoarer! Your father was my greatest wingfellow, and we grieve at his fall.’

‘Hail, Windlord StrongFeather, Father-of-Many! You honour us in that you remember our father in great kindness. Do your eyries prosper? Do all your eaglets fly high and strong?’

The elder eagle gave a laughing hiss.
‘You are courteous! But in truth you ask only for the health and dwelling place of SilverSong, my daughter—this I know well. She thrives, but she presently sojourns upon the Northern Mountains where the singers-of-the-wind gather until the storm season comes. She teaches my eaglets in the ways of the Great Spirit-Wind’s song. But she often remembers you with kindness.’

ThunderWing hung his head in embarrassment for a moment, but then lifted it proudly.
‘It is true that I desire SilverSong the Fair as my nest-mate, Windlord StrongFeather. I seek to conquer the peak and so to win the right to choose her.’

StrongFeather shook out his neck feathers and settled back to stare piercingly for a moment at the younger one before him.
‘I hope that you have her favour in this, for I see the spirit of your father is in you. I would gladly give my daughter to such a one.’

The young eagle hung his head again, overcome with gratitude and gratification. But was this not his due, as a son of Windlord HighSoarer?
He lifted his head proudly, only to hear not so good news.

‘NightFlyer, son of SwiftSlayer came yestersun on the same errand,’ continued StrongFeather, still watching him closely. ‘But he contemned the traditions of the Mawh’eyri and spoke his desire before the Council were ready to hear him. He demanded his right for the trial of the peak. He was sent away until the changing of the moon as penalty for his disrespect.’

‘Then I have come not a moment too soon, Windlord!’

‘Yes, he rivals you in many things, and never forgave you for defeating him at the Mawharhipi trials. But still, he is one hunting season your senior. Are you not too young to attempt the Summit? The season of tempests draws near also.’

‘I am the Swiftest in the Mountains, Windlord,’ answered Thunder-Wing in barely-restrained impatience. ‘Does that not show I am ready for the attempts? By the wings of the moon, I swear that I will conquer the peak before the coming of the storms!’

StrongFeather tilted his head a little in doubt, but said, ‘Very well. Windlord Council has allowed for one attempt, and you are the last of this season to do so. NightFlyer must await the passing of the tempest season. Do you need guidance?’

‘I need no guidance, Windlord.’
ThunderWing was too impatient and too proud to delay the process any longer.

The elder eagle shook all his feathers and sighed.
‘You indeed follow the same flight as your father. All must rise or fall by their own wing-beat, it seems. Go then! I will warn you of this only: Beware of the black cave of the southern face. Do not rest upon the crags thereof, for it is manifest that Mawharikhὺn is stirring again, and comes
forth at night to terrify the eyrie-folk of these mountains at times. Fear and terror is as his meat and drink. Yet he hides again in his caves here for fear of the good White Wind Warriors, Servants of the Great Spirit-Wind. Be vigilant, for that demon-storm may be on the watch for us.
You must return before sun’s rest, or you are easy prey to night-eyes of the evil one. It is not as easy to attempt the peak as it was in the days of my youth. There has not been any Reigning Windlord for many hunting seasons.’

He paused, waiting for a response. But since these warnings also did not seem to daunt the young eagle, the Windlord turned to more everyday practicalities.
‘There is fresh-killed prey and a water stream at need within Resting Cave, near the mountain’s pass. A Windlord shall watch from afar to judge your progress and witness your success, if indeed you do
He lifted up his voice in a Windlord’s song to the great Spirit-Wind.
‘Go, young warrior! May the great Wind-Spirit bear you upward!’

ThunderWing bowed again and leapt off the ledge, his wings spread wide, his eyrie’s war-cry on his tongue.

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Wednesday, 28 September 2016

"Wings in the Wind: The Reign of the Mawh'eyri."

Now available on Amazon!

Printed version also available on request.