Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Latest Excerpt from "Wings in the Wind". Chapter 3: Among the Mawharùn

 StrongHand looked up from his meal as he heard a fl urry of wings.
‘Hail, ThunderWing my brother,’ he said, bowing as to a great warrior.
‘Welcome home to our eyrie once more. You bring both shame and fame to yourself, but honour to our eyrie. Who but you would be both valiant and fool enough to challenge the realm of the Black Storm and draw him out to his doom.’

ThunderWing glanced at his brother as he landed. There appeared to be both mockery and admiration in his brother’s greeting. He, however, was not in the mood for the amiable squabbling that they used to indulge in, so he settled in his old corner and lay down.

‘Come now, little brother,’ pursued his elder, teasingly. ‘Are you still so shattered that you cannot play Mawharagh with fat brother StrongHand?’

But ThunderWing would not be drawn, so StrongHand, after looking for any signs of permanent damage to his sibling, shook his head and resumed his favourite pastime.
‘You have heard, no doubt, that NightFlyer is now…..?’

‘Yes!’ was the curt reply. ‘Indeed, all the eyries of the mountains know of his victory. I stayed only to see and hear SilverSong the Fair. But she came not, so I would not wait for the race.’

StrongHand grunted sardonically, but kept his peace and laid down.
Silence reigned for a while and ThunderWing watched the sun slowly setting behind the Western Mountains. He nibbled on some meat his brother threw to him. He saw the last of the hunters and gatherers flying home to their own eyries. A few of the solitary lesser eagles also returned to their eyries in the cliffs, tiny dots in comparison.

After a while, ThunderWing lifted his head.
‘It is said that you are the greatest of the hunters and gatherers, brother.’

StrongHand grunted, still absorbed in digesting his large meal.
‘It is of little moment to me. Perhaps it is because I feed many that it has been noticed. Had I my own war-cry, it would be: “Feed your stomach, feed the eyries.” It goes well. I build my hunger in the service of the eyries and therefore eat more. So I am content.’

A hissing laugh escaped his brother’s throat.
‘I now envy your lack of ambition, brother. Yet you are honourable in your service, little though you relish the honour.’

StrongHand looked up, surprised.
‘You are courteous! If your pride and presumption has been shattered in your fall, as it now seems, then maybe it has not been loss, but gain. Have you surrendered your dream to be Windlord of the Mawh’eyri?

‘Perhaps,’ his brother replied evasively. His vow to his love was a private matter now. ‘But for now I seek a lesser, but maybe better honour.’

StrongHand just blinked at him in bafflement.
‘I know not your meaning. What is this honour you speak of?’

‘To aid the hunters and gatherers to feed the eyries.’

This surprised the elder brother so much, he took wing and almost flipped over. The sudden movement swept the last scraps of his meal off the ledge, but he made no effort to retrieve them.
‘You, my brother! A hunter and gatherer? not all warriors despise us?’

‘Not this warrior! Nor have I ever done so, save in our banter and word-battles. But is there need for other wings? Can you use my hands in your task?’

For once, StrongHand’s enthusiasm showed, despite his outward profession of self-interest. His eyes brightened. This was his passion. He became even rhetorical.
 ‘More and more eyries are birthed in the mountains, and more and more eaglets are born to the wingfolk of the Mawh’eyri. The mothers are hard pressed to feed them at times, and there is sometimes great dearth in the season of storms, when the mountains wear the Cold White Down. The Watchers of the Marches guard the outer hills, so they cannot hunt, but must also be fed as do those in the Windlords in Council. It is hard labour and long, at times. Yet we are a merry band, we of the Mawharùn. We sing as we gather, and sing when we catch our prey. We dispatch the fruits of our labours quickly and quietly, and are fully content when we see that hungry mouths are fed. When times allow it, we feast all together and share our tales of the hunt.’

His face darkened.
‘But many more strong young eyrion think less of the eyries and more of their own glory. They choose to be warriors, and play eaglets’ games of war, feeding only their own bellies! Do we have need of more hunters? I tell you, many would starve if we, the despised Mawharùn become weary of our task!’

ThunderWing now looked at his brother with new eyes.
‘Truly, I have not given you the honour that is due. Let me come with you, then, at sun-arise next. You, elder brother, must show me the ways of the Mawharùn.’


So it was that ThunderWing joined the hunter-gatherers for the rest of the season.
He learned to respect the skill of his pragmatic but great-hearted brother. StrongHand knew the best areas for hunting and where the best berries and herbs could be found. He had developed a system of herding and culling their prey without exhausting their resources. He directed the hunters to find food in areas of plenty.

ThunderWing soon learned that speed and strength were not always helpful when hunting. He was surprised at the patience and skill StrongHand showed while stalking his prey. He watched and sensed the changing of the winds so he was rarely detected until the final moment, and it was too late. His speed at the final swoop could rival that of the fastest warrior. He was not named StrongHand the Master Hunter for nothing.

He found his fellow hunter-gatherers to be good-hearted folk. A few were surprised to find a warrior among them, and astounded when they were told it was none other than ThunderWing, formerly Swiftest in the Mountains—he who defied the Black Storm.
He showed no sign of superiority, however, so they soon accepted him into the fraternity.
Indeed, the goodwill and brotherhood of all members were something of which ThunderWing took note.
There was nothing glamorous or elegant about them. Few took the trouble to groom themselves beyond basic hygiene. They came from many eyries, often as the weaker siblings, the more fearful, the less attractive members of the family.
Many of the eagle-maids among them, the eyreira, were either too old, too disfigured, or just too plain to be considered as nest-mates by the warriors. Yet they were content to be among the fraternity.
There were no pretensions or airs about them. They took pride in their work, and carried the fruits of their labours to the farthermost mountains, without complaint.

StrongHand had a very egalitarian policy when it came to delivering their catch.
‘While I am Master of the Mawharùn,’ he said belligerently to his hunters, ‘We shall deliver our first catch to those who are in greatest need, first of all. If warriors, or even Windlords call for prey for their feasting, they must await those that are hungry and destitute—or catch their own prey. I have spoken!’

He would sometimes mutter the occasional remark about certain injustices that occurred among the Mawh’eyri.
‘Open your eyes wherever you are sent, my brother,’ he advised in an undervoice. ‘For not all is well in the mountains of Mawha.’

ThunderWing thought his brother took too pessimistic a view of the state of affairs, a reaction to the low esteem in which the Mawharùn were regarded. Nonetheless, he watched and wondered at some situations in some of the poorer eyries he visited.
He experienced the satisfaction of seeing hungry beaks fed, and the gratitude of many harassed mothers, whose nest-mate had gone to the Mawh’ree, the tournaments of the warriors in the Southern Hills, or had fallen through their attempts at the peak, or died fighting the Hrah’eyri raiders.

He had even heard of cases of domestic violence and forced marriages, where the eyreira had fled into the wild. It was a very patriarchal society. ThunderWing began to feel a little ashamed that he had spent so much of his youth at the Mawh’ree, forsaking his mother in her loneliness.

Sometimes it was a thankless task, being a hunter.
A hunter arrived at one eyrie, hardly recognizable, covered in dust and splashed with a little blood, bearing two hares and a branch of mountain berries.
The eyrie-mother was rather stressed and a little cross. She had three small wailing chicks and an aspiring young warrior-to-be to feed.
There was no sign of the father (presumably, he was at the Mawh’ree in the Southern Hills).

‘You are late, hunter!’ she snapped. ‘I cannot leave the nest and my lord is delayed. My chicks are starving!’

The hunter cast his catch before the hungry chicks and waved genially at the eldest of them, who was staring hard at him.
‘I cry pardon, eyrie-mother.’ replied the hunter, patiently. ‘There have been so many demands upon us, now the Mawh’ree trials are at their height. Prey is becoming scarce in the southern central valleys, so we have to venture beyond the outer borders. It is a long flight.’

The eyrie-mother merely grunted, tearing at the meal and carefully depositing morsels into wailing mouths.
The eldest youngster stared intently at the hunter, while munching on berry and flesh, so the hunter kindly asked him questions about his aspirations.
‘I know not if I be a hunter or a warrior, master hunter,’ the youth replied. ‘I like to be both, but cannot.’

‘Why will you not be both…?’

‘Because his father will not let him so demean himself!’ interjected the mother, irritated by the question. ‘If you have no more food to offer, pray go and leave us in peace. Do not be late next time!’

The hunter effaced himself hastily, winking at the young aspirant as he went.

‘Why you talk to him so, mother? I like him. I see him before at the Mawharhipi trials.’

‘If you are to be a warrior like your father, youngling, you do not befriend mere hunters.’

The young eagle gasped. He remembered who the hunter was.
‘Mother! It was ThunderWing, son of Windlord HighSoarer!’

The mother closed her eyes in exasperation.
‘Do not be so foolish, youngling! A champion of his stature would never join the Mawharùn! Eat your meat and berries and go to your nest!’

ThunderWing also met some of the older warriors, the Watchers and Guards of the Marches, as he brought meat and fruits to their posts on the outer crags of the outer mountains. Some had known his father, so his sons were held in high honour.

‘Hail, son of HighSoarer the great!’ said StrongEye, a battered and tattered old watcher, as ThunderWing bowed and laid his meal before him. ‘You have my thanks. Your eyrie has served me well. Your father saved me in times past in battle with the raiders. Your brother keeps me from starvation so I may keep my post. Because of you, the Black Storm is banished from the mountains, and we may live with less fear.’

He cocked his head sideways at his young visitor, who laid the meat out for him.
‘Yet this is a thing unheard of. Have you so demeaned yourself as to have joined the Mawharùn fraternity?’

‘I am a warrior still, father-warrior,’ ThunderWing replied stiffl y.
‘But I have learned that there is much honour among the Mawharùn, little though we warriors could see it. There is much I could learn from them. Proudly do I serve the eyries of the Mawh’eyri.

‘Very well, son of HighSoarer. But surely warriors are called to a higher calling. It is written upon the Stones of Judgment.’

The old warrior was still too set in the caste system of the mountain eagles to fully see ThunderWing’s viewpoint. Then he changed the subject.

‘Have you heard what has happened at the Great Peak? The news is spreading from eyrie to eyrie.’

ThunderWing’s heart sank.
‘Has NightFlyer, son of Windlord SwiftSlayer, has he attempted the Great Summit of Mawharikhan?
The old warrior snorted. ‘He has done so, and failed. But that is not the sole news.’

‘NightFlyer has failed??’
ThunderWing’s heart soared again.

‘Yes, he has failed, the arrogant young fool,’ the watcher replied with a scornful laugh. ‘And his pride will not let him forbear. But now there is a new enemy upon Mawharikhan for a warrior to conquer before he gains the summit itself.’

‘Surely it cannot be that Mawharikhn has returned! The rumour of his coming would have left a swathe of destruction in his wake! And he greatly fears the wrath of the Great Spirit-Wind!’

‘No, son of HighSoarer. Rather it is many enemies, but not so black, nor so evil, or so it seems. They are the Khriki winds of the Wailing Hills who, it is said, have heard of the banishment of the Black Storm, and have come to take residence in his place within the high black caves of Mawharikhan.’

‘The Khriki? The Raven-Winds? Do they do harm to the warriors that attempt the peak?’

‘Well…. they have less hatred in their hearts as had Mawharikhn, but they are proud. They harass you like the crows of the valleys, but are far stronger. Our folk are as playthings to them, if we wander onto their territory—or so they call it. They will not slay you, but they will buffet you with breath and wing. They will cause you to be consumed with fear so you lose heart. So it came to pass upon NightFlyer, son of Windlord SwiftSlayer, when he made his attempt, and upon LongFeather, son of StoneWing also. Their thought was that they would have an easy victory over the Great Peak, and great is their consternation.’
Both laughed aloud.

The garrulous old warrior would have chatted for quite a while, having had a long and lonely vigil, but ThunderWing had much to do and to think about. He politely extricated himself from the conversation, bidding farewell, and then facing his beak into the wind and driving rain.

‘SilverSong, my wing-love, you are safe for the moment!’ he sang to the air as he winged his way back to the hunting fields. ‘But Oh! That I may look upon you again, to hear your voice and to speak of this news! Where have they hidden you?’

He continued his work, but his head was full of these new developments at the peak, and their implications. If there was call for meat at Windlord’s Crag or at StrongFeather’s eyrie, he begged to be the one to take it. StrongHand good-naturedly allowed it a few times, but as Hunter-Master, he had to send the strongest flyers to the furthest reaches.
ThunderWing was the strongest flyer, and could carry just as much meat as StrongHand, so he was often chosen for the remotest marches.

On the occasions when he was allowed to visit StrongFeather’s eyrie, there was no sign of his beloved. On casual inquiry, he was told by a young family member that she was still in the Northern Mountains.
When he finally arrived in the Northern Mountains, bearing food, it was reported that she had flown back to her eyrie. He fretted, wondering if she had grown cold toward him.
He humbly approached her father when he visited Windlord’s Crag.
Windlord StrongFeather looked a little grim, but he took him aside and spoke to him.
‘Son of HighSoarer, my daughter is in hiding. It seems that Night- Flyer, Mawharhipi as he now is, already considers her his property. She is safe at my eyrie while I remain, but my duties often call me forth. He has been hovering, my son. Hovering as though she were his prey! I have spoken to his father, Windlord SwiftSlayer, but he is proud and will do nothing to restrain his son. They do not speak to one another, father and son, these sunflights. But I have warned his father that if NightFlyer should touch my daughter unlawfully, I will call Mawharagh upon him, as is my right. But so says Windlord SwiftSlayer: “Then may the strongest win!”’

ThunderWing was shocked.
‘Oh, that I were a champion again, that I may challenge him in your stead, O Father-of-Many!’

‘That time may come yet, my son,’ said the older eagle, prophetically. ‘I am old, and may not prevail as you may. True, you must become a champion again. Perhaps even, as Windlord? I know your mind and that of my daughter.’

He turned away and gazed at the great cloud-covered peak in the distance, disregarding ThunderWing’s embarrassment.
Mawharikhan sleeps. But the new enemies sleep not, and they are strong and unpredictable, as dark winds are.’

He turned back and stared at the strong young warrior before him, his stern eyes softening.
‘But you are stronger in many ways, I think, my son. But await the right season, for only the Great Wind-Spirit can tell when it is so. The Raven-Winds play havoc with all who come to challenge the peak, even at times with the elders at Windlord’s Crag, but they merely play and do not slay. They shall hide in the Black Caves upon the peak during the season of storms, for they fear the Warrior Storms. Go, my son, for so I shall call you. Your time shall come. But wait for it. Your wing-love, my daughter, waits for it also. She is safe for the present. May the Great Wind-Spirit bear you upward!’

There was a lump in the young eagle’s throat, so he could not reply. Bowing low, beak to stone, he departed and returned to his own eyrie.
He could not see her! But she was safe. That was all that mattered.

He returned to his work, which kept his mind occupied. If he became idle, he felt he would go mad. He sang to the Great Spirit-Wind, beseeching him that his time may be soon.

And there was enough to keep his mind occupied.
It would be unfair to say that he became as skilled as his brother, but his superior flexibility in flight proved to be a bonus at times. His strength and skill developed through this training, and his new feathers grew longer. He was becoming a formidable foe.
A few crows, competing for prey, found themselves out-flanked and out-maneuvered. Some paid with their lives if they became too pertinacious, and tried to steal the meat from under ThunderWing’s beak. They swore at him in their own uncouth tongue, but left him alone.

Respect for the brothers grew among the fraternity, but when a crisis arose, it developed into full admiration, even deference.

Friday, 22 September 2017

The powerful new Book Trailer is now on YouTube

This is an animated multimedia presentation of the book:
"Wings in the Wind - The Reign of the Mawh'eyri", put together by Bardswell Creations.

For further enquiries on this or any of Bardswell Creation's services, contact:

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.