The Gang of Five
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Additionally, for the month of November we have a new character showcase. Please give Mama Flyer a a warm welcome as she flies in for a visit!

Soaring Across Azure Skies

jassy

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Sharptooth flyer = Ornithocheirus

A note: Italics inside quotations indicate emphasis on words, while italics outside of quotations indicate thoughts.

FF link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13940589/1/Soaring-Across-Azure-Skies



Prologue, Goodbye

The island was completely quiet, save for the melody of the ebbing waves gently dribbling onto the sandy shore. To anyone else, the roaring tide might have been something to fear. But to the island's denizens, the sound of the Big Water was quite welcome. To them, the echo of the foamy water crashing onto the sound was like the presence of an old friend who had been there through thick and thin, like the relief a nesting mother felt when she came home to hear the laughter of her young ones, knowing they were alright. The presence of the Night Circle was a welcome one as well, as its gentle glow was a sign of the arrival of a more peaceful time, during which the flyers could shun their worries and responsibilities for a while. The Night Circle could have shone anywhere, but on that specific night, it chose to cast its light on a nest within a steep cliff laying a little ways from the shore. Nestled safely inside it were two sharptooth flyers, not even old enough to have developed proper use of their wings. One youngling slept peacefully in a carefully crafted nest of leaves and grass, but the other tossed and turned so much he slept just a few feet from his brother lest he accidentally injure him in his sleep.

Then, at the edge of his consciousness, the latter flyer heard a voice. A whisper.

"Orri." A nudge, "Orri, wake up."

Orri stirred slightly, the thick cover of sleep yet to wear off of him. Before the interruption, he had been in the middle of quite the interesting sleep story, and it took him a minute to realize he wasn't in it anymore. He grunted sleepily, blue eyes almost glowing in the darkness of the cave. His dark pupils briefly transformed into narrow slits, his vision taking a moment to adjust.

"Mm... papa? What-?"

"Shhh," the male brought a talon to his beak, scooping the tiny youngling into the palm of his hand, "let's talk outside. We wouldn't want to disturb your brother now, would we?"

Orri looked towards the sleeping form of his brother, who was curled up in his usual protective position. Vali could sleep through just about anything, and didn't move in the slightest. From an outsider's view, it would seem like a typical night for a typical flyer family, save for the fact that there wasn't anything typical about them at all. After Orri and Vali's mother was taken by The Great Storm less than a season ago, give or take a few cycles of the Night Circle, their father was the only family the two boys had left.

The older gray flyer brought his groggy and still confused son to a ledge just outside their nest, the night circle illuminating their faces in a cool, pale light. He assumed a more stoic expression, refusing to let his son catch onto how he truly felt.

Unfortunately, contrary to what his father wanted, young Orri picked up something he didn't quite recognize on the elder. A scent, one of uncertainty and fear, which made the youngling feel the same.

"Papa? What's going on?" he inquired curiously, surveying his surroundings, "What are we doing out here?"

"You've made me very proud, my boy," his father crooned, "Don't ever forget that. And... make sure your brother knows too. I know him and I don't exactly see eye to eye, but I'm sure he'll listen to whatever you have to say. All I ask is that you tell him I'm proud of him."

Orri noticed the tears glistening along the corners of his father's eyes, a feeling of fear washing over him. He recoiled suddenly, like a hapless creature being backed into a corner. "Papa, I-I don't understand. Why are you acting like this...?" The question came out as a painful, choking sob.

"Listen to me, Orri," his father continued despite his son's obvious fear, "I... damn, how do I put this?" He muttered, rubbing the nape of his neck before sighing in resignation. "The reason I'm saying all this is because I have to leave Blue Haven. Tonight."

"No!" came the youngling's immediate, horrified response, "you can't! Please!"

The male didn't even make an attempt to hide his tears, as his scent already gave away exactly what he was feeling. He once again brought a claw to his beak, trying to placate the young one. If anyone, more specifically the sentinels that guarded the island during the day, were to awaken and hear them... everything would be ruined.

"I'm sorry," he whispered, "I really wish there was more time for me to explain all of this to you."

"But I don't understand!" Orri squeaked, his voice lowering to a quiet whimper, "Mama left us... why are you leaving us too?"

"Trust me, I don't want to." He touched his beak to that of his son's, trying to show his sincerity. But goodness, was it difficult. It was a near impossible task, coaxing his son into trusting him when he was in the process of abandoning both him and his brother.

"I'm doing this because I want what's best for you and your brother, okay?" His raspy voice quivered as he spoke, his words followed by a heavy sigh, "I'm going to find a new place. A safe place, beyond the Big Water, where we don't have to worry about The Great Storm wiping us all out. That's what your mother would have wanted for you. I know it is."

Orri felt something damp on his cheek, then felt his father's talon gently wipe his tears away. The boy hadn't been entirely convinced that he wasn't still asleep, up until now. When he felt his father's touch, he had no choice but to acknowledge the bitter reality.

"...Will you ever come back?"

"I will. I'll do everything in my power to come back for you two, and that's a promise."

That reassurance helped to ease Orri's worries, but it failed to sway him from wanting answers to the many questions that still weighed heavily on his mind.

"If you are leaving to find a safe place, then why can't you take us with you?"

His father nervously shifted his gaze towards the night sky, covered in far too many stars for him to count. Just above the horizon, he could see the faintest tint of light purple reflecting against the water. The Bright Circle would be rising soon enough. His time was running out.

"I'm afraid it's too dangerous," he explained, speaking slowly to mask the slight irritation that plagued him, "you and Vali are still very young and weak. You two barely know how to flap your own wings, let alone fly, and I don't even know what kind of dangers will be waiting for me out there. If something happened to either of you, I don't know what I'd do. But don't you worry. You'll be safe here, far safer than you could ever be with me."

He then leaned in close, his warm breath gently brushing against Orri's scales. "It will be difficult, but I know in my heart that what I'm doing is for the best."

"But papa—" Orri started, but his protests were quickly muffled as his father spoke over them.

"I have to leave now before anyone else sees me, but I promise we will meet again one day. Either in this world or the next. Do you understand me?"

Orri at first refused to meet his father's gaze, but was soon forced to look at him when he felt his beak being tilted gently upwards. "I... I understand," he finally responded, unable to tear his eyes away, even when his sobs began to hit him with full force.

"Good." The other brought his hand closer towards his beak, decreasing the distance between them so that he could give his son a parting embrace. A proper one. "You've been blessed with exceptionally strong instincts, better than any flyer I've ever seen, and I mean that. Use them, and listen to your brother. Watch out for each other."

"I will," Orri promised, sniffling while his father guided him back to the safety of their sleeping area, offering a pleased nod at his son's vow.

With a heavy heart, the lone flyer then took to the skies. He soared past the Big Water, engaged in a battle of wills with the unrelenting waves that were equipped with a mind of their own, the violent current threatening to throw his fragile body against the rocks. It was a battle he'd barely managed to win. Once he had though, he didn't dare to look back. He feared that if he did, he wouldn't be able to fight the urge to return and all would be lost.

Orri watched his only remaining parent disappear into the night, his form blending in perfectly with the night sky as if he had never truly been there at all. While the fact remained that his young son would eventually forget this moment before long, the constant and gentle lull of the Big Water served as a reminder that there was someone out there who would never forget.



Yeahhhh I realize this isn't Across The Seasons, but it is another OC centric story!  :taunttroll I've unfortunately seemed to hit a bit of a roadblock with ATS and where I should go with the next chapter, which is why I've set that aside for now. But this is another story I've had in the works for a bit, only my perfectionist self never really deemed it good enough to publish up until this moment. I'm also working on this in hopes that I'll be able to write a fic with more planning and world-building than my previous works. Finally, this is yet another sharptooth narrative of course, but with flyers! I've never actually written many lengthy flyer-centric stories before, so I'm sure it'll be interesting! In any case, I hope you all enjoy this tale of love, survival and adventure, and I hope to see you all soon in the next update.  :rainbowwave

-Jassy
"Don't you ever wonder what's out there?"  :rainbowThinking




rhombus

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Now this is certainly a promising beginning!  :) I like how you immediately bring us into the story by catching a glimpse of the main characters during a difficult moment, which provides us with both immediacy with an initial plot development and a dive into the characters so to speak.  In this case it appears that we have two young flyers who are safe on an island or other enclosed area, but who are far too young to be on their own. All the while their father must (temporarily, he hopes) abandon them for their own good. It will be interesting to see how the two flyers adapt to this loss and also to see why their father feels the need to make this journey.

All in all, this is quite a good introduction and hook for the story.  :)


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Menders Tale.


jassy

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Hey everyone! Before I get the ball rolling with this chapter, I'd just like to attach this mini glossary of sorts. It contains various flyer slang that you'll hear throughout the course of this story, as well as their definitions. I'll most likely end up defining the terms as they come up, but do let me know if there's something I missed! I also know I'm later than usual in crossposting this chapter to the GoF, so that's my bad. I'll be sure to respond to any reviews in the upcoming chapter since this one's already up and published on FF.net :PLoofah

Sharptooth Flyer = Ornithocheirus

Scaly Swimmer = A fish.

Shortbeak = Often used by older flyers to reprimand younglings, implying that their beak is still as short and stubby as it was when they first hatched. It can also be used to do some friendly teasing as well. Depends on the context, really.

Wisehead = An egghead. Someone who's a stickler for the rules and doing things the 'right way'.

FF link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13940589/2/Soaring-Across-Azure-Skies




A New Dawn

The waves of the Big Water felt cool and soothing against the gray flyer's scales- like a gentle, ticklish sensation. The current rolled towards him, soaking the tips of his wing membranes before retreating back into the depths, as if being pulled back by some unseen force. Above him, multitudes of flyers soared effortlessly through the murky air. But rather than observing them and trying to piece together how they achieved such grace in their movements, his deep blue were lost in the torrent of water and foam. Just looking at the vast expanse of blue brought back some vague yet unpleasant memories, but Orri couldn't tear his eyes away. He couldn't shake the feeling that something about the Big Water was alive, and was calling out to him.

Perhaps a small part of him actually wanted to go beyond those invisible boundaries, like his father before him. Blue Haven was... wonderful, but it left much to be desired. Life was always the same: fly, eat, sleep, fly, eat, sleep. On their little 'patch of paradise' as many called it, they were free from airborne predators, and had convinced themselves that they were the masters of their own fate. That was the sad part. A decorated trap was still a trap and Orri knew it, even if no one else did. He knew that a life where one couldn't even wonder about a better world was no life at all.

"Orri!" A distance voice echoed, barely reaching his ears. Oh, wonderful. Now I'm hearing things, he pondered silently, deciding not to give the imaginary voice the time of day.

"Orriiii!" The voice was closer now, but Orri still refused to acknowledge it. He was sure it was a figment of his imagination, and his imagination had a tendency to run away from him and do more harm than good in the process. He couldn't even count the amount of times he sensed something, was called crazy, only to be proven right later on. The worst part of it all was that it didn't matter if his instincts were right or not. To the rest of the flock, he'd always be seen as someone who would only drag them down.

He closed his eyes for a moment in an attempt to silence the voice in his own head, only to let the most undignified scream when he opened his eyes again.

"AHHH!" He stumbled back, falling over onto his haunches. It was then that he realized the source of his fear was none other than Vali, his brother.

"Finally," Vali sighed, exasperated, "Do you realize how long I've been calling for you? If the Circle of Life gave you ears then you should use them."

"My bad," Orri said apologetically while getting back up onto all fours, shaking the particles of sand and water off of his scales, "I actually heard you calling me, but I thought the voice was in my head."

Vali seemed confused for a moment, but quickly decided it wasn't worth questioning. He gazed into his brother's eyes, his own softening at the other's appearance. They were both the same age, but Orri might as well have been seasons older, as far as appearances went.

"Are you alright?" Vali questioned, visibly concerned. "You look... tired." He tried to be delicate, but he couldn't deny that his brother did indeed look worse for wear.

"I'm fine," Orri answered, once again shaking his head to clear his mind, "I think I might just be hungry. I don't believe I've eaten yet."

Vali narrowed his eyes, shooting a rather doubtful look towards the skinnier flyer. "Right, and I'm a rampaging threehorn. You're my brother, Orri, not some stranger. Now why don't you tell me what's really wrong?"

"It was worth a shot," Orri said in slight jest. He looked towards the horizon and then back at Vali. "There's something strange about the Big Water lately. It sort of feels like it's calling my name, like it wants me to follow it... or like it's warning me. I know that sounds crazy, but I really do feel it."

Vali pondered his brother's words for a moment. Orri's instincts had seldom been wrong before, but he was also susceptible to such cryptic intuitions when he neglected to look after himself properly. He remembered his father advising him as a boy that even the sharpest of senses could go awry if the body was not taken care of. Of course, their treacherous father had also left them to fend for themselves, but it was a good lesson all the same.

"I'm sure it's nothing," Vali assured him, placing a hand to his shoulder, "the Big Water is strange and mysterious, which is why we must never go beyond it. We are safe here, except for when the Great Storm comes, but even then, we can see the signs days before it happens and prepare ourselves in advance..."

He caught himself rambling and realizing that he was probably boring his young brother to tears, shook his head. "Listen, my point is that sometimes, our minds can trick us into worrying ourselves sick over absolutely nothing. It happens to the best of us. Even more so when one doesn't take the best care of themselves, like when they forget to eat, for instance."

Orri couldn't help but beam in admiration of his brother, despite the evident jab at him. He was always so strong, so logical, and so kind. He'd certainly make a great leader one day, if he was ever given the chance. "Well, if you say so, then you know I'm with you."

"There's a lad!" Vali exclaimed, playfully nudging the other male with his beak, "Now, you said you were hungry? I'll go and fetch you some scaly swimmers. Stay here, and try not to get carried away by your own thoughts." He scurried off and Orri went right back to overthinking, despite his brother suggesting he do the opposite.

At least, he was planning on doing so until Vali reappeared in front of him, stretching on all fours with a gleeful smile, torso facing the sky. "Look. We're both upside down."

An old fail safe that Vali often relied on to lift Orri's spirits when they were both younglings, Vali was both surprised and disappointed to see that the only reaction he got from the male was a half-hearted smile. Whatever was bothering Orri must have really been eating at him. Even if he wasn't feeling the best, that stupid 'upside down' joke always managed to pull a laugh out of his brother. Realizing there wasn't much else he could do, he decided to cut his losses and gave the other a loving nudge on the shoulder before setting off to find some food.



A single green eye peered through the bushes, the dark hue perfectly concealed by the shadow of the foliage. The eye's narrow, black slit trailed the area, dilating when it landed on two flyers who appeared to be engaged in a friendly conversation. Upon closer inspection, Illyria realized that she recognized the bigger one of the two, a flyer with a faded gray hide and harsh verdant eyes that looked down upon the newcomer.

Faris. As the head of the sentinels, he'd forgotten more about fighting than she'd ever know.

As for the other flyer, Illyria didn't quite recognize him. He was smaller in stature, but he carried himself in a way that told the disgruntled, older flyer that he wasn't about to back down. Scarlet eyes practically bore a hole through Faris' forehead, letting him know that his intimidation tactics were of no use, and that he'd be better off saving his breath.

"We have no place for wanderers here," Faris reiterated, repeating the exact same thing he had yelled in the other's face mere moments ago.

"No place? This island has enough room for another flock!" The wanderer exclaimed incredulously.

"That's precisely why we have no place for the likes of you. We have a peaceful life here, and we can't let every flyer that passes by eat up all of our food. They might spread word of our home, or worse, they might try to seize our land for themselves."

The smaller flyer frowned. "Well, that's not the least bit fair, is it? And you know, that sort of narrow mindedness will only end up causing you all more grief in the long run. You can't hide yourselves forever. It just won't last."

"I don't think you're in any position to be giving me a lecture," Faris hissed, "and you want fair? Well, tough shit. If you don't like how we run things, then you're free to move on. But if you insist on staying, then I can allow you to go further inland. Stay on the far side of the island, where you can't bother anyone. A fair warning though, you'd better be gone by the time the bright circle rises over the mountains, or else I'll make you leave."

With a huff and a snort, the newcomer decided to take what he could get and headed off in the other direction. Faris hummed in satisfaction, resuming the most important task of feasting on some freshly caught scaly swimmers.

A wanderer? We've never had wanderers before, Illyria wondered. It had just occurred to her that the reason behind Blue Haven's lack of visitors could very well be Faris turning them all away. Trying to visualize all the things the wanderer must have seen, it made her shake with excitement just thinking about it!

Unfortunately, in her excitement, Illyria also gave away her hiding spot. A rustle from the bushes caught Faris' attention, after which he sniffed the air and caught wind of the young girl's familiar scent.

"Come on out, Illyria," he sighed, "I know you're there."

A younger, more inexperienced Illyria would have continued the charade. However, she knew by now that trying to hide from Faris once he had her scent was a losing game. She emerged from the bushes, head hanging low in guilt and embarrassment.

Faris sighed, trying to withhold the frustration that gave itself away when he shook his head. "Illyria," he began, "How many times have I told you not to eavesdrop? It's rude, and makes a flyer seem untrustworthy."

"At least a few times every season, since I was a youngling," Illyria responded matter-of-factly, making no effort to hide her annoyance. "Many apologies, oh wise one. I think my curiosity just got the better of me."

"I know," Faris agreed with a nod, his expression more indicative of defeat rather than anger. He was no stranger to the girl's sarcastic attitude, nor did he let it get to him. "It's not your fault. You've never seen newcomers before, so I suppose it's only natural that you'd want to find out more. But I assure you, outsiders are forbidden for a reason."

"I understand," Illyria responded, nodding along to each point he made. The quicker he finished his lecture, the quicker she could leave. "So, um... is it alright if I go now?"

Faris eyed her suspiciously, slanting his head a few inches to his right side. "Well, that all depends on you. Can I trust you to keep your distance from the wanderer?"

"Of course. I promise I won't even look at him." Every word she spoke was a lie, but she'd had seasons upon seasons to master the technique of lying, specifically to Faris.

"Very well. Be careful," he reminded her, finally letting his guard down as he turned his back and gave a wave of his arm, letting her know that she was free to go.

Illyria grinned, quite satisfied with her brilliant performance. She looked back once more as extra insurance that Faris wasn't watching. Sure enough, he was busy snacking on those scaly swimmers of his. She slunk right past him, briefly making eye contact with the lone sentinel that stood watch at the entrance of the forest, right where the vegetation grew denser. The female pretended not to notice him, and the guard even seemed to do the same, much to her pleasure. Soon, she disappeared entirely, using her sniffer to follow the trail that the mysterious wanderer had generously left behind.



A cacophony of various screeches and cries filled the air, every single sound and pitch muddling together to the point that Vali couldn't tell them apart or tell what each individual flyer was even saying. However, the background noise did serve a purpose— it helped him direct his attention solely on his catch by blocking out the more sudden, raucous sounds that would usually disturb his concentration. Dark blue eyes focused intently on the water, watching and waiting for even the slightest movement...

SPLASH!

His pupil narrowing as he whipped his head in the direction of the sound, Vali watched a single scaly swimmer break the surface, leaving behind a growing trail of ripples in the water. Vali lunged forward to catch his unsuspecting prey, fully confident in his ability. It was one of the bigger ones, too. Vali couldn't believe his luck. Surely, this would bring Orri out of that slump!

SWISH!

Before he even had a chance to react, a gray-blue blur zipped past him, sweeping up the scaly swimmer in one swing. Instead of some food, all Vali got a mouthful of bitter tasting water. An obnoxious laugh echoed off of the cliffs, prompting Vali to look up at the swift thief, despite being fully aware of who the culprit was. This wasn't the first time he'd been down this path, after all.

"Gale, you slimy thief!" The male squawked, "That was for my brother! Why don't you catch your own food for a change?"

"Too bad, wisehead!" Gale guffawed from the air, the scaly swimmer still trapped within his beak, "You should have been quicker! But don't worry! You know what they say- there's plenty of scaly swimmers in the sea!"

The flyer's cackles sounded through the air as he headed towards the share, presumably to enjoy his unearned meal. Vali watched him leave, scowling. From the corner of his eye he caught sight of another scaly swimmer leaping across the water, and caught it by its tail. The creature was remarkably tiny, with practically no fat on its pathetic little body. Even a hatchling wouldn't want it. Vali released his hold, letting the swimmer retreat back into the water to live another day.

A minor setback, but he wouldn't let that discourage him. He was going to find a good, appetizing meal for his brother, even if he had to circle the water until the Cold Time arrived. Shrugging off the lingering annoyance with a small huff, he reassumed his previous position, eyes watching the water for any sign of life. Only this time, he also made sure to keep an eye out for any no-good, thieving flyers as well.



Somewhere within the thicket of trees, a twig snapped. Not long after, a pale brown blur could be seen leaping from one tree branch to the other, the seemingly elusive creature using her own momentum to propel herself forward. She may not have been the strongest or the biggest, or have any redeeming qualities that would be of any use, but Illyria prided herself on how sneaky she was. Her body was so light that she could move without making a single peep, instead of lumbering around everywhere like some of the larger flyers in her flock. It was a shame that her only true skill was rendered useless, unless she actually felt like sneaking off somewhere in the dead of the night without the use of her wings.

Busy with reciting her mental monologue to no one but herself, Illyria hadn't even noticed she'd lost sight of her target. When she looked down, the alleged wanderer was nowhere to be seen. Eyes widened in surprise as she whirled her head from one end of the clearing to the other, unable to spot him. She must have been truly incompetent if she already managed to lose sight of someone who had been there mere seconds ago. The thought of looking behind her didn't even cross her mind until it was too late.

"May I help you?"

"Woah-!"

The voice that suddenly made itself known from above caused her to lose her footing, squeezing out a yelp from the female as she slipped from the branch she had been perched on. She barely managed to prevent any serious injury with a quick flap of her wings seconds before she touched the ground.

Craning her head, she turned to meet her unknown assailant. At least, she assumed they were there to kill her. The one immutable law of the outlands was to either kill or be killed, and she knew that. She looked up, meeting the curious gaze of a male sharptooth flyer. The wanderer.

"Are you alright?" The male inquired, landing right in front of her.

"Fine," Illyria answered curtly. Aside from her bruised ego, she had not a scratch on her.

"Don't feel bad," the other chortled, "It was quite clever, using the branches to launch yourself forward instead of relying solely on your wings. You just need to figure out a way to not make as much noise. I could hear you before I even saw you."

Illyria was inclined to believe that the flyer was only saying that out of pity, but one whiff of his scent suggested otherwise. "Thank you. I'm... still working on it. Clearly."

"Well, in any case, the name's Yarrow. What's yours?"

"I'm Illyria. At least, that's what everyone calls me." As a flyer who grew up without any parents, she simply had to trust that what others called her was actually her real name.

"Illyria," Yarrow repeated to himself, a wistful look in his pale eyes, "a beautiful name. So, Illyria, you look like quite the curious young flyer. Why did you feel the need to follow me, if you don't mind my prying? Don't worry, I'm not upset. I'm just curious."

"Seems to be a lot of that around here lately," Illyria remarked under her breath, earning a slight chuckle from the elder. His reaction brought upon the faintest hint of a smile on her face, as well as an increase of confidence.

"I saw Faris chew you out," she proceeded to explain, "before you, I actually never saw another outsider. But now... I'm starting to think we get more visitors than we actually know about."

"Faris?" Yarrow tapped his beak, racking his memory for a moment before he finally remembered. "Ah! You mean that savage brute? Yes, I've certainly come across his type before... always set in their ways, and trying to reason with them is about the same as talking to a rock."

Illyria snorted at the blunt yet fitting description. "Yes, that's him. But that's not the only reason I'm here. You see, I've been raised by that 'savage brute' my entire life. When I was younger I would ask him about the outside world, but he usually ignored me or he would yell at me. Either way, I never got anything out of him. So, I was wondering if you could tell me what it's like...?"

Upon seeing the almost childish gleam in the young one's eyes, the male smiled fondly. He remembered his youth well, the memories of being a swift young flyer with an insatiable sense of curiosity. He understood exactly where the young female was coming from. In fact, he even saw a little bit of himself in her.

"Well," he began, "it's quite difficult to put into words, but I will say that if you were to see it for yourself, I don't think you'd be let down. Out there, you'll see mountains that spit fire from their tops, and entire lands covered in nothing but ice, with winds that could freeze your beak off."

Illyria instinctively covered her beak, green eyes wide with amazement as she listened to each and every word he said. Faris could only imagine capturing her attention as completely as Yarrow did.

Yarrow thought he had finished listing all that he could off the top of his head, until his eyes widened in realization less than a moment later. "Oh! How could I forget? You know of the Big Water, yes? Well, believe it or not, it actually goes on forever and forever."

"What? No way, you're making that up," Illyria shook her head, narrowing her eyes in suspicion, "if the Big Water really is that huge, everyone would have sipped all the water up seasons ago."

"That's the thing, shortbeak. The Big Water is so huge, it never runs out. And it's not filled with just scaly swimmers. There's all sorts of creatures living down there in those depths! I'm telling you, it's like an entirely different world."

"Yeah, whatever. I'll believe that when I see it. " It wasn't that she didn't want to believe him, it was just that it sounded too good to be true. She'd hate to venture out there herself, only to be disappointed.

"It's the truth, young one," Yarrow insisted, "I've seen it with my own eyes. You've lived quite the sheltered life here, so I don't blame you for being skeptical. Actually... maybe it would be better for you to see it for yourself."

Dark green eyes were as wide as the Night Circle at its fullest, Yarrow's statement prompting the gobsmacked female to meet his gaze. "You mean... I could be there?"

"Well, why not?" Yarrow shrugged rather indolently, "Everyone has to leave home at some point, don't they? And in my opinion, there's no better way to make your mark on the world than setting out to see all that it has to offer."

The gleam had returned to her eyes, even if just for a fleeting moment. With the tip of her beak in her palm, she mulled over the possibility. Going beyond the Big Water? That would be an adventure for the ages, no doubt about it.

She looked up to meet Yarrow's gaze once more. "I'll be right back," she told him before tapping the lower part of her beak with her talon, "...will you still be here?"

"Of course," Yarrow affirmed, nodding his head.

Great. That was one less thing to worry about. Illyria flashed a quick grin and turned back the way she came, unable to contain her excitement as she swept through the vegetation.

As soon as she was gone, another figure drifted down from within the shelter of the trees. A flyer. He had concealed himself at Yarrow's behest, but now that the girl was gone, he could finally give the other a piece of his mind. "Damn it, we're wasting too much time. Why don't we just grab her?"

Yarrow was unable to repress an utterly exhausted sigh. "Because that would be abduction, which is frowned upon in many places, Yuri. Even if we did take her by force, three flyers don't exactly make a flock. And more importantly, I would never stoop as low as holding someone against their will."

"Y'know, I can't tell you how annoying it is when you talk like that, acting like you're the pride of every flock just 'cause you're so smart," Yuri grumbled, "I mean, every time you open your mouth, I just think to myself 'who does this guy think he is?' I mean, everyone looks up to you for no real reason except that you talk good. And you know what? You do talk good. But that's all it is. Talk."

Yarrow drew an inward breath, looking up towards the sky and wondering when his brother would get to the point. After an entire lifetime with Yuri, his long-winded rants had simply become a part of their daily routine. "Are you finished?"

"No," Yuri spat, "But there's no use in talking to you about it, so why waste my breath? Besides, what I'm more annoyed about is the fact that there ain't shit to eat here."

"I can see that." Yarrow sighed again, massaging his forehead, "Listen, I know that we don't really have a whole lot of time, but all I'm asking is for you to trust me. Once we have a decently sized group we can get out of here. We'll settle someplace safe and later on, when we're old— well, older, we can laugh and reminisce about this moment. You have my word on that."

There was a long silence after that, during which Yuri managed to scoop up a scaly swimmer maneuvering its way through the stream. Then, with the swimmer in his mouth, he gave his muffled and unimpressed response. "...Yeah, sure. Whatever."
"Don't you ever wonder what's out there?"  :rainbowThinking




jassy

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A good night to enjoy the sweets of the land = A sort of secret code among rebellious younger flyers, used when they want to sneak off and do something forbidden without any elders catching on to their plans.

FF link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13940589/3/Soaring-Across-Azure-Skies



The Outsiders

It took several grueling attempts and a few painstaking moments of making an absolute fool of himself, but Vali soon returned to his brother, clasping a few scaly swimmers in his beak. It wasn't exactly his best work since the swimmers were small and not very fattening but the fact remained that large, decently sized swimmers were rare in the shallow waters that surrounded them. I'm going to kill you the next time I see you, Gale, he swore to himself.

Vali landed in a patch of sand, plopping the scaly swimmers down in front of the other male. He pushed the meal towards Orri with his beak, giving him an encouraging nod. In response, Orri merely looked down at the rather unappetizing swimmers.

"I'm sorry I don't have the kind you like," Vali sighed, lowering his head apologetically, "Someone else beat me to it, I'm afraid. You know Orri, sometimes I feel like clearing out of this forsaken island altogether."

Orri glanced at his brother, tempted to weigh in with his opinion but quickly deciding against it. It wasn't often that Vali voiced his dislike for their current lifestyle. If anything, he usually defended it, but his complaints were starting to become more frequent. Not wanting to upset his brother any further, Orri reluctantly took a bite out of the swimmer. He knew he shouldn't complain- food was food, after all. The unfortunate majority of creatures who lived in the outlands were lucky if they came across a meal at all.

Vali noticed the other's hesitation and sighed inwardly, lowering his head in exhaustion. "If you can't eat it, that's fine. You don't need to pretend to like it."

He tried to keep the frustration out of his voice for his brother's sake. The last thing Vali wanted was for Orri to feel like a burden. No one had ever called the young male a liability to his face, but actions often spoke louder than words. No one needed to tell him he was seen as dead weight, as he could tell by the way most flyers went out of their way to avoid him, and the way he could feel the weight of their scrutinizing stares on the back of his head. Even when they acted polite, Orri's sharp instincts could often decipher the truth behind the smile.

This was no different. Despite his brother's attempts to hide it, Orri still picked up on Vali's agitation. He crouched towards the ground, lowering his head in a submissive position, apologizing for his offense. "It's alright, Vali, really. I should be more grateful. I mean, it is food, isn't it?"

Vali frowned, having picked up on the quivering of Orri's voice. His brother wasn't the only observant one in the family. Having been thrust into the role of a carer as a youngling, Vali knew him the way a father would know his own son.

"Don't start, Orri," Vali warned, "it's alright. I wouldn't exactly want to eat this either, especially if I'm looking for an actual meal."

He scrunched up his beak before touching his beak to his brother's in a display of affection. "I'll go try and find some better ones for you. You are a growing flyer, after all. And with your health, you're going to need some proper sustenance."

"I'm guessing Gale took all the good scaly swimmers for himself again?"

Vali turned to see the tall and slender golden-brown form of a male flyer right behind him. He sat upon a moss covered rock, practically losing it over his own joke- which wasn't even all that funny to begin with.

"Afraid so, Scud," came Vali's utterly exasperated response as he braced himself for the oncoming headache.

"What I wouldn't give to see him choking on one of the scaly swimmers he stole," remarked Scud with a shake of his head, "the Circle of Life bites everyone in the ass at some point or another."

Vali rushed to cover his brother's ears, hissing at Scud to be quiet. "What's wrong with you? I've told you before to curb that foul tongue around my brother."

"I know what 'ass' means, Vali," Orri sighed, wriggling free of his brother's grasp, "I'm not a hatchling anymore."

"That's the problem with you shortbeaks," Vali scolded, "you all want so badly to be grown up but when it finally happens, you wish you were young again."

Scud cocked his head towards the side, hazel eyes glazed over in thought. "Wait... aren't you two the same age?"

"Now that you mention it... yes, we are. Vali just likes to act older than he actually is." Orri craned his head to look at Vali, an uncharacteristically smug grin on his beak.

"I still hatched first," Vali huffed, "but if that's how you're going to be... well, then I suppose you can bid those scaly swimmers goodbye."

Orri's eyes widened in horror. "No! Come on Vali, don't be like that, I was only joking!"

"Got you, shortbeak." The slightly larger flyer winked, laughing while tracing a claw over Orri's chest, causing the other to burst into laughter.

"S-Stop it!" Orri managed through fits of giggles, "Vali, I'm serious! Cut it out!"

"Who's your favorite brother?" Vali added another hand to his barrage of tickles, "Tell me who your favorite brother is and I'll stop."

While the two brothers were curled up into a heap of laughter, Scud spotted Gale making his way down towards the shore, ready to feast. Curious eyes watched the male swallow his unearned catch, only for it to get caught in his throat.

"Alright, alright! It's you!" Orri cackled until his stomach began to ache, tears flowing from his eyes. "It's you! You're my only brother- just let me go-!"

Scud couldn't help but laugh at the display of absurdity. "Vali, look. The Bright Circle's barely risen and already Gale's had more than he can handle."

Vali tore his eyes away from his brother, granting him his freedom. Dark blue eyes softened in a show of sympathy towards the currently choking flyer. "Poor Gale. I suppose somebody should help the lad before he chokes to death."

Both Orri and Scud showed their agreement through affirmative murmurs and nods, despite not budging from their current positions.

Vali rolled his eyes. It was already clear exactly which one of them would end up shouldering the responsibility. "Well, don't everybody fly off at once."

While Vali made his way over and proceeded to chastise Gupta for swallowing the scaly swimmer tail-first rather than headfirst, Orri decided to busy himself with staring at the clouds.

"Orri! Orriii!"

Orri whirled around to see Illyria darting towards him, her hyperactive movements inadvertently causing her to kick sand all over the place.

"Ugh," he winced, spitting out a few bits of sand that he'd accidentally inhaled, "why are you shouting?"

"Sorry," Illyria apologized, making room for herself right next to Orri, "But there's something important I have to tell you. It's a matter of life or death!"

"No offense, Illyria," Orri started, scratching the area behind his ear with his leg, "...but I think you and I have two different definitions of 'life or death'."

She opened her mouth to defend herself, only to close it mere seconds later. She definitely had a tendency to overreact, she'd grant him that much at least. "It's serious this time, I promise you." She lowered her voice to a whisper, "I... I talked to a wanderer."

Orri straightened up almost immediately. "I really hope this is your idea of a joke," he responded with just a glimmer of concern in his eyes, "wanderers never come here. And more importantly, anything about the outside world is forbidden, remember? You could get in serious trouble."

"Ancestors, not you too." Illyria rolled her eyes, "Just listen, alright? The wanderer's name is Yarrow. From what I could gather, he's probably looking for more flyers to join him before he takes off again. Safety in numbers, you know? And he suggested that younger flyers like us should join him!"

Orri drew in a gentle, quivering gasp, basically beaming. "We could know what it's like firsthand...!"

"...A good night to enjoy the sweets of the land?" Illyria peered knowingly at her friend, a mischievous grin laying upon her snaggletoothed beak.

To the adults, specifically the ones that had lived through more than several cold times, it might have seemed like the female was merely spouting nonsense, but Orri recognized the secret riddle. "No," he mouthed, "we shouldn't."

"Oh, come on," Illyria groaned, "You just said you'd like to witness it yourself! Don't be such a shortbeak."

"What are we talking about, kids?" Scud butted in. "Up to some mischief, are we?"

"No!" Orri and Illyria exclaimed in unison.

Scud laughed, thoroughly amused by how quick the kids were to cover up any evidence of their schemes. "Oh, don't you worry. I'm no blabbermouth. I can't say the same for that one over there, though."

He pointed a talon in the direction of Gale, who was too exhausted by his ordeal to even think about eating. Vali was still occupied with lecturing him about proper eating habits, although Scud was sure Gale would have preferred choking to death.

"If you two want to sneak off then by all means, go ahead. You just haven't lived unless you've done something that's against the rules at least once in your life." He gave them both an encouraging nudge, urging them forward. "Go on. I'll cover you."

Fresh out of excuses, Orri sighed defeatedly before following in Illyria's footsteps. "I used to be such a sensible flyer..."



They approached the thicket of trees, where surely enough, one of the sentinels was standing guard. The same one from earlier, in fact. Illyria smiled and walked right past the dark brown flyer, hoping that he'd let her pass through another time.

"Hold it." He blocked the pair's way in with his left wing, "Orri, Illyria, where do you two think you're going?" A pause. "...those are your names, right?"

Orri nodded affirmatively while Illyria did the talking, surprisingly chipper. "Good day, Aharon! How are you?"

"Cut the crap," he hissed, "I know you're on your way to meet the wanderer. You realize I saw you sneak off earlier, right?."

Illyria winced, clenching her fists while cursing herself for being so careless. The sentinels were loyal only to Faris, and no one else. She knew that. "...You're not going to tell him, are you?"

"Well, I didn't tell him the first time I saw you, so I won't tell him now since I'd like to keep my head on my shoulders." He bent over, looking Illyria in the eye. "So long as you two don't get caught. But I have to warn you, if Faris realizes where you are, there's nothing I can do. I'm sticking my neck out for you shortbeaks, but I'm not about to put my job on the line. Understood?"

"Yes, sir," Orri answered, his body as rigid as a stick.

"Loosen up, son. Just Aharon is fine." Aharon then lowered his wing, stepping aside to let them through while scanning his surroundings. Once all was clear, he nodded to signal that they could go on ahead.

Illyria and Orri scampered into the foliage, Orri briefly circling back to the lone sentinel. "Thank you for this, Aharon. We both really appreciate it."

"Yes, yes, you're welcome," Aharon mumbled impatiently, "Just hurry and go before anyone else sees you."

"Right." Orri dipped his head respectfully, sauntering back over to where Illyria was waiting for him. Before long, both flyers had disappeared into the verdant forest, leaving not a single trace except for the very discernible footprints that were now embedded in the soil.



"Ah, I see you've brought a friend." Yarrow stepped out into the clearing as he saw Illyria approach with another flyer in tow. A welcoming smile on his face, he made his way over to the newcomer. "My name is Yarrow. What's yours?"

"Orri," he answered, still not able to muster the courage to look right at him just yet. Meeting new flyers always made Orri feel smaller than a buzzer.

The young one's nervousness was not lost on Yarrow, who chose not to acknowledge it for Orri's sake. "It's wonderful to meet you, Orri. Are you interested in seeing the outside world as well?"

Orri felt his heart drop, crouching lower and lower towards the ground. He was sure this was a trap, somehow. "Well, not really..."

"Come on, Orri," Illyria nudged him in the side, prompting him to let out a nearly comical sounding 'oof', "you can be honest."

"Vali will kill me if he finds out," Orri stated, still visibly afraid.

"Don't be so dramatic," Illyria laughed, "I mean, he goes into a tizzy if you have the smallest scratch on you! Look, I know you hate disappointing him, but you have to start living for yourself at some point."

"That's exactly right. There's really nothing to be afraid of, young one," Yarrow assured after directing an approving nod in Illyria's direction, "all we have to fear is fear itself."

"Here we go." Yuri glared scathingly at Yarrow, turning around to eat so he wouldn't have to listen to another one of his brother's cryptic riddles.

"I see you've now met my brother," Yarrow said in breathless exasperation, reciprocating the glare with one of his own, "his name is Yuri. He talks a big game, but he's harmless. Mostly."

"You kids should turn back right now if you don't wanna be bored to death," Yuri advised the two young flyers, not even making the slightest effort to be discreet about his lack of support for the other's plan.

Yarrow scowled at his brother and craned his neck to look back at Orri and Illyria. "Anyways... I figure I should explain myself a bit, just to clear the air, hm? If we are to survive in the outlands, or the Mysterious Beyond as many others call it, we must learn to trust each other first."

Orri couldn't help but feel like that comment was directed at him. He shifted his weight uncomfortably, taking shelter behind Illyria's forewing.

"My brother and I have been on our own for quite some time," Yarrow continued, "We chose to leave our flock, right about when we were your age, actually. We were young, eager and overconfident. What we had yet to learn was that the beyond does not discriminate. It can and will swallow you whole, regardless of how old or young you are. That's just the truth. We've seen so many wonders and we hope to see many more, but we're also looking for a place to settle down. Maybe a high, lonely place with enough water to sustain us. We were actually thinking of this place when we saw it, but... well, Illyria can tell you just how smoothly that went."

Illyria let a shrug roll off of her shoulders, a light but awkward chuckle escaping her beak. "Mhm. Faris doesn't exactly take too kindly to others encroaching on his so-called territory."

"It's just how things have always been done," Orri reasoned, coming to Faris' defense, "He's only trying to keep us safe."

"Just by that sentence alone, I can tell you have a kind heart," Yarrow pointed out, unfazed, "make sure you keep it that way, Orri. It's rare to find a soul in the Mysterious Beyond that hasn't been embittered."

"Yep," Yuri agreed through a mouthful of water, "the Mysterious Beyond will chew you up and spit you out a hundred times over. If you can keep that same attitude after all that crap, even I would be impressed."

Yarrow nodded his head, concurring with his brother's statement. "If you lose hope, then you lose. You'll just become fodder for the Mysterious Beyond, just another name. I know it sounds sappy, but hope is what kept my brother and I alive. Of course you can't survive on hope alone, but believing you can is already half of the journey."

Hope. That wasn't something Orri ever had much of, and perhaps that was exactly the problem. He dared to dream of a better place, but never dared to hope of one. With an optimistic glimmer in his eyes, he finally summoned the courage to look directly at the elder. "...Please, can you tell us more?"



Outside the thick cover of green, Aharon diligently stood guard, sending anyone who even glanced at him wrong fleeing in the opposite direction. Or at least he was prepared to do so, if it ever came to that. As someone who'd ventured off on many escapades as a young flyer, he understood what it was like, wanting the slightest taste of thrill and adventure.

Suddenly, a faint rustle from the grass caught his attention. His pupils constricted, his entire body poised to attack as he sniffed the air, trying to gauge the supposed threat. When he saw Faris emerge from the thin blades of green, Aharon felt a sense of relief, only to resume panicking less than a second later. Anyone else he could handle, but not Faris!

Regardless, he masked his panic and dipped his head respectfully. "Greetings, sir. What brings you here?"

"Have you seen Illyria?" Faris inquired, "Or Orri? Vali informed me that he turned around for a moment and Orri was gone. I wonder where they could have gotten to..."

"I'm afraid I haven't seen them, sir, I've been standing here this whole time, and they haven't passed through." Aharon remained stoic and stony faced, hoping that his superior wouldn't see through his act. If Faris found out he lied... Aharon didn't even want to think about it.

Faris paused to sniff the air. "Strange... Illyria's scent is still fresh. I know because that girl rolls around in the dirt all day, and she has a very strong scent." A hearty laugh escaped his beak, Aharon laughing along with him to guarantee that he stayed on the older flyer's good side.

The laughter came to an abrupt and sudden end when Faris' eye caught a footprint, mere inches away from where Aharon stood. Crouching over, he took a whiff of the soil. Although the footprints quickly disappeared, he could see a trail of leaves directly ahead of him. "That's Illyria's scent, alright. Looks like she went further inland..."

The realization dawned on Faris, and it took all of Aharon's willpower to remain calm and collected. The leader of the sentinels was no fool, there was no doubt that he'd already put the pieces together.

"That little... she went to talk to the wanderer! She probably roped poor Orri into it too," Faris fumed, "Aharon, follow me. I'll need my strongest sentinel in case those murderous outsiders want to try any foul play."

"But sir, my shift is nearly over," Aharon protested. He was looking for any excuse to keep the other from following that trail.

"What about it? The next flyer knows what to do when he gets here. Now come!" He began to advance forward only to stop in his tracks before letting out a high pitched screech, shouting out a single name.

"Nightwing!"

A dark blue flyer, a bit runtish in stature but a swift flyer nonetheless, swooped down. "I'm here, sir. What is it?"

"Nightwing," Faris began, addressing the other flyer by name, "Listen to me. I need you to go find Vali, tell him to come here and to wait for me. Got it?"

Nightwing nodded, setting off to carry out his orders. Left with no further delays or excuses, Aharon had no choice but to follow his superior, and to hope that Orri and Illyria had already cleared out of the area before they arrived.



Thank you all for your patience! I know this chapter took a bit longer to get released than it should have, and I do apologize for that. This semester has been incredibly hectic but I only have about two months left so I hope to get some writing in! There's not much happening in this chapter which was intentional, since it's intended to act sort of like a bridge between the previous installment and the one that's to come, and I hope you all are looking forward to that and seeing what'll happen to our hopeful, young flyers. Now with all of that out of the way, it's time to respond to some reviews!


The Rhombus:

Thank you for your helpful feedback as always! :) Your assessment of Vali and Orri was pretty spot on, haha. But I'm glad to hear that it kept your interest, and I hope it'll continue to do so.
"Don't you ever wonder what's out there?"  :rainbowThinking




Talset

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Amazingly written Jassy! good job! It is kinda late for me here, so I only had the energy to read the prologue. And it got me hooked! your description of how to express the surroundings and characters in written words are very poetic and eloquent, which is so lovely. As for the plot, it would be as Rhombus said a very solid introduction. The sacrifice the father had to make is very touching and a good build up for what is coming next.

I'm not really a fanfic writer but rather a person who gives his OC additional background stories and is comfortable being in that place and level of writing. While reading your fanfic I realized I could learn a lot from your writing style to improve mine, very inspiring I would say. Anyhow, Keep up the work, you are doing great!   :yes


jassy

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FF link: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/13940589/4/Soaring-Across-Azure-Skies



A Conversation

The light of the Bright Circle poured in through the trees, illuminating Yarrow's aged body in a shower of warmth as he spread his wings wide, a proud and confident grin dancing across his beak. Many a times had he regaled the story of him and his brother's numerous adventures into the Mysterious Beyond, to the point he practically knew the entire tale by heart. Telling a group of eager yet naive young ones how he'd witnessed things none of them would ever believe unless they saw it with their own eyes, it was second nature to him.

As usual, Yuri took no part in the storytelling. He didn't have a flair for dramatics like his brother- he'd much rather sit the whole thing out and snack on some swimmers. This time was no different. He sat a little ways away from the group, his beak half engulfed by the babbling stream that gently curved its way around the forest. As he waited for an unsuspecting scaly swimmer to come moseying by, his scrutinizing gaze casually drifted over towards the two young bloods.

Illyria was absolutely enamored with Yarrow's tales of the outside world, dark green eyes beaming with exhilaration while she envisioned seeing it for herself. Orri's own thrill was a little bit more subdued, but make no mistake, it was certainly there. Deep within those thoughtful blue eyes, there was the slightest hint of wonder.

Yuri unconsciously smirked to himself at the sight of the fascinated pair, subsequently lunging forward and trapping the scaly swimmer in between his teeth. The poor, hapless creature attempted to wriggle free, as if he had a chance of escape. No more than a moment later all movement ceased, quickly followed by the flyer swallowing his catch in one swift gulp. The unfortunate swimmer was a prime example of the immutable fact that life could change in an instant, whether one was the hunter or the hunted. It was a valuable lesson, one that he was sure the two youngsters would never learn if they stayed isolated on the hunk of floating land they called home. Not that he wanted to be the one to teach them that lesson. He couldn't have cared less.

"...Well, I suppose that's enough of my rambling for one day," Yarrow concluded, assuming a more neutral stance as compared to his earlier, more flamboyant position. "You youngsters aren't even supposed to be here, are you? Both of you should leave before you get in trouble, but remember, you two will have to make a decision very soon. We figure it's for the best that we don't stay here for too long."

"Yep," Yuri agreed, "I was saying that we should leave right this instant, but the idiot over there wants to give you time to decide what you wanna do. In any case, we'll be gone by the time the Bright Circle rises tomorrow, whether you're coming with us or not."

Illyria grunted in both agreement and acknowledgement. They didn't have much time to decide on a course of action, but truth be told, she didn't need any. She would gladly leave this miserable island behind. Her only problem was figuring out how to break the news to Faris, but she'd worry about that later. As she turned to leave, she noticed Orri standing completely rigid, appearing to be in some kind of a trance.

The male's pupils narrowed into barely visible slits, every other muscle in his body seemingly frozen. He sniffed the air around him as if he were hunting for something, his sniffer fixated on a certain scent while he tried to figure out who or what the mysterious scent belonged to.

"Orri? Hey, Orri!" Illyria nudged him in the side in an attempt to get his attention, her tone being one of concern with just the slightest hint of annoyance. "What is it? What do you sense?"

"I don't think we're alone," Orri hissed through whispers, more afraid than concerned. "We should go."

"Duh. That's what I've been trying to tell you," Illyria quipped, pushing him forwards with her beak. She could sense Orri's palpable fear, and gave him another nudge with her forewing. "Don't worry. If we leave now, no one will even notice that we were gone."



"I can't believe this. It's absurd," Faris griped, "you raise a young flyer, you give and you give everything you can to them, and how do they repay you when they grow up? By going behind your back."

Aharon knew better than to interrupt while Faris was on one of his angry tangents, as he'd heard the same complaint from the older flyer many times before. The words were different, but the subject of his frustration always remained the same. It was always about something Illyria had done, and how he was determined to impose stronger restrictions upon the young girl. As always, Illyria got away with a warning and being confined to the nest for a few days before she rushed off to go against Faris' wishes once more. It was an endless and vicious cycle.

Faris shook his head. "I tell you, I think I've been far too lenient with that girl. I've always given her the freedom to run around and do what she wants, but I think that's done more harm than good. Of course young ones need freedom, but they need just as much structure and discipline. Don't you agree?"

"Huh?" It took the male a moment to realize that his superior was asking for his opinion. "O-Oh, yes, yes, of course! Structure and discipline are, uh... very important, sir."

A pleased grin spread across Faris' face, followed by a singular nod of approval. "I'm glad we agree. Then again, we see eye to eye on nearly everything, so it's really no surprise. You should know that's actually one of the many reasons I chose you to follow in my footsteps when I am gone. After all, great minds think alike, do they not?"

Aharon opened his mouth, prepared to agree with yet another one of Faris' statements, even if he wasn't completely sure what the old timer was talking about. "Of course—"

"Hold that thought," Faris interrupted, holding out his arm and keeping the male behind him from moving any further, should there be any danger lurking within the foliage. Cold, stern eyes remained on the thick bushel of grass that moved in steady waves, until a gentle rustle disturbed the smooth cadence. The elder stiffened, ready to go in for the kill if need be.

Even Aharon found himself waiting in suspense and anticipation. Despite his harsh and nearly emotionless demeanor, he did have a bit of a soft spot for the kids. They reminded him a bit of himself when he was younger, filled with optimism and hope. While joining the sentinels was a decision he'd made himself after he had already made peace with the fact he would never see the outside world in his lifetime, he had an inkling of hope that maybe, just maybe, it didn't have to be that way for the newer generation of flyers.

Aharon snapped back to reality when the grass finally parted and Faris unwittingly held his breath, releasing it when Orri and Illyria emerged from the green depths, the color nearly draining from both of their faces when they saw who was waiting for them on the other side. Faris immediately relaxed, only to tense up once again, the look in his eyes now more stern than defensive. He stepped forward, addressing them both.

"Sorry," Aharon mouthed to the two young flyers, briefly dipping his head in remorse before assuming a more stoic position.

"Where have you two been?" Faris demanded, pupils narrowing into thin lines. "...And don't even think of lying to me."

"Why are you so upset?" Illyria questioned, clearly having a death wish, "We were just... you know, exploring. Or something."

Right behind her, Orri could be seen smacking the palm of his hand against his forehead. For all her sneaking off and attempting to escape, he hoped that she would have been a better liar.

"Or something," Faris repeated, highly unamused. "And what do you mean by that, exactly?"

"I don't know," Illyria mumbled under her breath, "We were just wandering around, alright? Why does it even matter what we were doing?"

"Illyria..." Faris sighed, "just how big of a fool do you take me for? I know you went to go speak with the wanderer, even after I told you to stay away from him! Honestly, if you're going to blatantly disobey my wishes and then lie to me about it, the least you could do is put some effort into it."

"Well, there's actually two of them," the female pointed out, "and if you already knew where I was, then why bother asking? Do you just enjoy playing mind games?"

This couldn't be happening. Orri's was quite literally living through his worst nightmare. While Faris and Illyria went back and forth, Orri closed his eyes in the hope that this was just a sleep story and that when he woke up, everything would be back to normal. When he opened his eyes, the first thing that caught his attention was how angry Faris looked. He seemed so furious, like he might pass out from the amount of anger that currently coursed throughout his body. No one will even notice, Orri repeated in his head, recalling Illyria's words from earlier.

"I expect this sort of insubordination from you," Faris snarled at Illyria, "but Orri... you've always had some sense, at least!"

Orri wasn't going to lie and act like Faris' words didn't wound him, especially since Faris was one of the few flyers in the flock who actually treated him like he was worth giving a chance. But when he looked at Illyria, who still stood unfazed and unwavering, Orri thought about all the times she'd taken the rap for him. For his mistakes. Her reputation in the flock definitely preceded her, but it wasn't entirely her fault.

"But they're really not that awful, sir," Orri spoke up, not stuttering even once. "They just want to settle down, and live a safe, peaceful life like all of us. With all due respect... doesn't everyone deserve that?"

Faris appeared at a loss for words, opening his mouth for a mere moment before the words died on his tongue. "...Well, of course they do, Orri. But I can't risk the safety of the entire flock for the sake of two flyers."

"You say it's for the safety of the flock, but this seems pretty extreme," Orri argued, shocking Illyria into a glimmer of respect, "it makes me wonder if you're actually doing it for us, or you're only doing it to control us."

"Mind your tone, shortbeak," Faris warned, voice dripping with malice, "what would your brother think, hearing you disrespect an elder like that? I doubt he'd be happy."

"Well, you don't know my brother," Orri replied, surprisingly calm despite the threat, "he doesn't see things the way you do, and he wouldn't just get upset without at least giving me a chance to explain myself."

That last part wasn't fully true- Vali sometimes did get upset if he was worried for Orri's safety, but the young male wasn't about to falter in front of Faris, as much as the rational side of him wanted to.

Faris' eyes widened, his entire body tensing up. For a moment it seemed as if he might actually strike Orri, who braced himself for the oncoming impact.

"Stop!" Illyria screeched, her voice cracking with desperation. "Just stop it. Please. I'll accept whatever punishment you see fit, and I'm sure Orri will accept whatever punishment his brother decides for him. But you need to know that this was all was my idea. I put Orri up to it."

"Illyria, don't," Orri mouthed. He didn't want her to take the fall for him yet again. If she ended up in trouble anyways, then that brave facade he put on would be for naught.

Nonetheless, Illyria continued. "If there's anyone you should be angry at, it should be me."

"Very well," Faris muttered calmly, his voice carrying much less anger than before. If anything, he looked tired. "You, young lady, go on home. You and I are going to have a very long chat when I get back. As for you, Orri, your brother is waiting for you. And I don't doubt he'll want to have a conversation with you as well."

"Yes, sir." Orri bowed his head in submission, acting like a completely different flyer than before.

Aharon watched the two youngsters depart, a dejected sigh slipping out. Orri and Illyria had done nothing wrong, yet Faris was treating them as if they had betrayed the flock. Although, in Faris' eyes, even speaking to an outsider was probably akin to treason.

Letting out another sigh, he started to slink back towards the brush, hoping to slip away without being noticed.

"Aharon," Faris' voice echoed. From the corner of his eye he could see Aharon, making an attempt to retreat into the shadows.

"Aharon!" The elder's voice was firmer this time, and loud enough to shake some of the leaves off of their branches.

Aharon winced, reluctantly circling back to his superior. "I-I'm here, sir."

"Good," Faris nodded curtly, not even bothering to look the younger sentinel in the eye. Aharon didn't need to use his sniffer to tell that the elder was upset, the way Faris treated him like a youngling caught doing something they weren't supposed to was answer enough. "...Come with me. We need to talk."



As the day steadily drew to a close, the Bright Circle now began to gradually recede into the still waters below. The evening sky was covered in hues of orange, yellow and blue, fading into each other to create quite the fascinating mix of different colors. The rays of the Bright Circle barely reached the cliffside, the warm glow casting itself onto the form of two flyers, one laying about in the nest while the other paced from one side to the other, his movements reminiscent of anxiety and uncertainty.

Vali paced around in a circle, his movements somewhat matching the state of his psyche at the moment. He wasn't even sure where to begin- yelling at his brother would get them nowhere, but the same was true if he decided to simply brush the issue off. Or perhaps he was just reading too deeply into this. Orri was his brother, not his son. Vali had to remind himself of that fact an astounding number of times.

"Orri..." Vali released the tension that had built up in his chest with a sigh, perching himself beside his brother. "I just want to let you know that I'm not angry or disappointed with you. I'm just... I worry about you. A lot."

"Hm. You and everyone else," Orri responded through murmurs, no more responsive than he was when they got home. From where he sat, the light of the Bright Circle did not reach him, leaving his face to remain shrouded in darkness.

Vali winced, burying his beak in his hands. Others had always commended Vali, saying that he had a way with words, but he failed to see how. He couldn't even phrase his feelings in a way that didn't make his brother feel even more incompetent.

"That's not what I meant," he explained, "look, that came out wrong. What I'm trying to say is that yes, I do worry about you, but not in the way that you think. I worry about you because... well, you are all I have."

This seemed to draw Orri's attention from the ground, looking up to where he could see his brother smile briefly. Vali edged closer to the other male, joining him in the shadows.

"I won't lie to you, Orri. You're fragile. You always have been. I always worried for you and felt this intense... need to protect you, even before father left. But it definitely got worse after that. I mean, I still try to let you be on your own because I don't want to suffocate you, but I can't sit here and pretend that that concern doesn't eat at me everyday."

Orri's eyes softened, and he slowly closed the small distance between him and Vali. He listened to his brother lay himself bare, which was not something Vali did very often.

"Well," Orri started, "you're not like Faris, so I'd say you're doing a pretty good job at that."

Vali permit himself a laugh, despite the seriousness of the situation. While he tended to worry himself to death at times, Vali also had a rather unique sense of humor. It was one of the many qualities that Orri had come to admire about his brother.

"Oh, cut the poor lad some slack," Vali managed through bursts of laughter, "he's just trying to keep us all together. Sure, he may be a bit brash and unreasonable at times, but he does care about us."

"I know." Orri was well aware of that fact, but intentions alone weren't enough to sway him, nor were they enough to make him stay. Faris might have actually hit him, had Illyria not intervened. Orri had even purposely neglected to tell Vali about the altercation, knowing it wouldn't have done anyone any good.

Silence reined, and for a moment, neither flyer said anything. Orri was the first to speak up, his tone of voice more appropriate for delivering news of a death. "...I'm still going to leave, Vali. I know you want to stay and it's alright if you do, I'll understand, but... I just don't see any sort of future for myself where I'm still living in Blue Haven. I'm sorry."

"Hold on." Vali shook his head, utterly bewildered by what he was hearing. "What makes you think I want to stay?"

"I don't know," Orri muttered, followed by a light shrug of his shoulders, "you're always telling me how we're safe here, and how I should do as Faris asks and never even think of the outside world."

Vali didn't really have a good response to that. It made sense why Orri might assume his brother was among the many flyers in their flock who practically kissed the ground the sentinels walked upon, even if the reality was quite the opposite.

"I say that because I want you to stay safe," he clarified, "you know what they do to those who break the rules. I just don't want anything like that happening to you."

Orri felt like a huge weight had been lifted from his shoulders, evident in the way every single ounce of tension seemed to disappear from his body. "So you're not upset...?"

"Of course not," Vali assured him, his voice so gentle it might as well have been a whisper. "Ideally, I would want you to stay here, where I know you'll always be safe. But if you absolutely insist on leaving, then I hope you realize that there's no way you're going anywhere without me."

The smile that graced Orri's face was so bright that it could have shamed the Bright Circle itself. His life had changed quite a bit in one day, but he was relieved to know that his brother would be there to help him navigate it. Delighted, he buried his face in Vali's chest, embracing the other male.

Vali gratefully sunk in, showing not even the slightest sign of hesitation as he touched his forehead to that of his brother's. "I love you, Orri."

While it was apparent to everyone else just how much his brother meant to Vali, Orri himself had never quite realized how much he longed to hear his brother say those words until he actually did. Even if the entire world was against him, as long as he had his brother's support, Orri was confident that he could weather his way through any storm. Feeling perfectly safe in his brother's company, he closed his eyes and leaned in closer.

"I love you too."



The male flyer's footsteps ricocheted off of the walls, rattling the very foundation of the nest. It felt just like the beginning of an earthshake, during those brief moments when the tremors weren't strong enough to deal any real damage but were enough to leave its victims with a feeling of dread as they waited for the earth to give way beneath their feet. The way Illyria felt, she might as well have been caught in the middle of a real earthshake. Her entire world was collapsing, and all she could do was sit there and wait for the worst of it.

The Bright Circle had just about completed its cycle across the sky, slowly retreating behind the horizon. The dim and dusky light just barely reached his face, allowing the girl to get a decent look at how infuriated he was, even if just for a second.

"Of all the foolish and idiotic things you've done..." Faris growled, "this is by far the most foolish!"

Gritting her teeth so tight that she felt they might crack, Illyria refused to look at her adoptive guardian in the eye for fear that she might burst into tears if she did. She couldn't say that his words didn't affect her even just a little bit, but she would rather keep her feelings hidden inside than ever give him the satisfaction of knowing he got to her.

Faris was moments away from launching into a litany of protests, when he noticed that the target of his lecture wasn't even looking at him. He shouldn't have been surprised- lately, trying to talk any amount of sense into Illyria was no different than talking to a rock.

"Illyria," he inhaled sharply, "are you even listening to me?"

"Obviously not," she retorted with a scoff, "come on. I thought you were supposed to be smart."

"You are out of line, little girl," Faris warned, his outraged glare practically burning a proverbial hole in the female's forehead. "You are speaking to an elder. Remember that."

His warning was only met with indifference. He raised a claw, shaking it in her direction as his roars echoed reverberated through the cave. "I'm being incredibly lenient right now but next time- the next time I hear you take that tone with me, I won't let it go!"

"Whatever," Illyria deflected, offering an apathetic shake of her head before wrapping her wings tightly around herself, trying to ease the shaking sensation that currently plagued her body. "...You know I'm not afraid of you, don't you? Your empty threats never stopped me before, and they sure aren't going to stop me now."

Faris wanted to explode. He wanted to unleash all his anger, his rage and frustrations out onto the girl. But he didn't.

He sighed, his anger finally dissipating into acceptance. He nodded his head several times, greatly exaggerating the gesture. "Well, you know what? I've done all I can, Ria. I don't really know where exactly I went wrong with you, but what I do know is that I've tried to raise you as any good father would..."

"Two mistakes," Illyria cut in, her beak quivering at the memories that were dredged up when he used his old nickname for her, "first, you're not my father. I've never seen you as my father, and I never will. Second, even if I did see you as my father at any point, you were never a 'good' one."

Faris' breath hitched slightly, the harshness of her words having a physical effect on him. He was never particularly expressive, but anyone who truly knew him could see that he definitely took the words to heart, despite his attempts to conceal it. Having known the older flyer for much of her life, the subtle changes were not lost on Illyria. But as it would turn out, she could no longer spare another ounce of her energy worrying about his feelings. Besides, he'd never took her feelings into consideration before, so she was simply returning the favor.

She expected another boring lecture or for him to raise his voice at her again. Instead, all she got from him was a sigh of complete and utter defeat. He didn't even seem angry. Just disappointed.

"...I can respect that," he choked out, "I understand I'm not perfect, and I'm sorry that I let you down. I suppose as a guardian figure, I can no longer stop you from from doing what you want. Though ancestors above know I've tried."

He chuckled wryly, almost amused by the entire situation. Illyria's priorly resentful gaze drifted up towards him, constantly trying to blink away the newly budding tears that threatened to spill over. She hugged herself, knees drawn close towards her chest as she trembled with fear. What she feared exactly, she didn't quite know.

"I'm leaving, Faris," she practically whimpered, "tonight, and you can't stop me. I'm an adult now. It's my choice." There was a hint of desperation in her voice, like she was trying to convince herself of it just as much as she was trying to convince him. Even now, after everything, a part of her still wanted to cling to him.

"I know," Faris responded in a soft, gentle voice. "Again, as your guardian, I cannot stop you from leaving. But as the leader of the sentinels, I can. By fraternizing with those no-good wanderers, you're putting the future of the entire flock at stake."

He stepped in closer, lowering his head until his pale eyes were staring directly into her darker, more fearful ones. "I say this to you not as your guardian, but as protector of this flock- I am warning you one final time to put an end to this nonsense. You might even get a lighter punishment. However, if you choose to betray us, then you and whoever else leaves will be deemed enemies of the flock, and you may never return to Blue Haven." He stepped back, holding his head high in a display of superiority over her. "...The choice is completely yours."

He looked down on Illyria, both literally and figuratively, giving a slight and formal bow of his head. "Think about it," he urged, turning his back towards her and flying into the night.

Once he was far away enough that Illyria could no longer hear the flapping of his wings, the female released the air trapped within her chest, gasping for breath as if she'd just managed to resurface after nearly drowning. Her entire body trembled, the tears she had tried so hard to hold back now flowing freely. She felt uneasy, so much so that she felt like she might end up regurgitating the food she ate, a bitter taste lingering on her tongue.

A stream of tears fell from her glistening verdant eyes, blazing with a painful rage that she'd never known. She felt her still-beating heart sink down into the pit of her stomach. While her emotions ran rampant, Illyria was suddenly bestowed with a bit of clarity, several realizations hitting her all at once. The most important one of all being her sudden awareness of the fact that Blue Haven was not her home, and it never had been.

To her, home was meant to be a place where she was loved for who she was, not a place where a single step out of line would earn her the title of a traitor. Blue Haven seemed like a wonderful paradise, but it was truly just a trap. One that she'd had the misfortune of being born into. She knew she could very well die out there, beyond the horizon, and she had made her peace with that. She'd rather her life be cut short while exploring the world's wonders instead of dying old and having accomplished nothing of any substance.

Still heaving and gasping for air, Illyria ambled towards the entrance of what she once considered her home. Moist and puffy eyes looked out towards the sky, where the blue haze of the daytime had completely fallen to reveal the billions and billions of twinkling stars that stretched on forever, with no obstacle blocking their path.

Even as she let out a calming and steadying breath, Illyria's chest still ached. Her head still hadn't stopped pounding from the force of her sobs, but for the first time in her life, she was thinking more clearly than ever before. Surprisingly, she found that she held no ill will against Faris. She was actually rather grateful to him. After all, by treating her like the enemy for simply desiring a better future, he'd made her decision that much easier.



Annnd there we have it! I'm honestly quite surprised at how quickly I was able to pump out this chapter, but then again, it is a fairly straightforward one and it was already in the works by the time I started Chapter 2. I'll admit it was pretty lax in terms of action, but it is still a vital part of the narrative, I promise! Luckily, the next chapter will definitely be a bit more action packed and I will finally be able to actually get the ball rolling with this story. Next, on a smaller and less important note, I might go back and revise/fix a few spelling errors I noticed in the previous chapters, because I honestly don't believe I'll be able to stop thinking about them until I do, haha. It's always those tiny errors that you somehow missed while proof-reading that drive you absolutely insane once you actually notice them. :P

Anyway, that's about all I have to say for this chapter. I hope to see you all in the next installment to discover how our main flyers get out of their current predicament, whenever that may be! And as always, I look forward to hearing everybody's thoughts! :)

-Jassy



@Talset thank you for your kind words! I'm glad to hear that the prologue was interesting enough to get you hooked, and I'm even happier I was able to inspire you! Hopefully I'll get to hear your thoughts more often.  :Mo
"Don't you ever wonder what's out there?"  :rainbowThinking




rhombus

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My deepest apologies for not reviewing lately. Life has kept me rather busy as of late, but thankfully I had spare time today in which to catch up on this wonderful story.

A New Dawn:

Now this is a chapter that presents quite a few interesting developments. Orri is haunted by thoughts of the Big Water calling to him for some purpose, which his brother tries to dissuade him from. However, considering Orri’s connection to the unseen, I suspect he might have a valid reason for seeking to leave the island that he calls home. At the same time Illyria seems quite taken aback with curiosity at the newcomers, much to Faris’s consternation.  Yarrow seems good enough and offers the young flyer quite a lot to process about the world beyond, but Yuri on the other hand... I suspect he might be trouble going forward if his suggestion of abduction is anything to go by. I look forward to seeing how these plot developments proceed from here.

The Outsiders:

Aha!  Just as I suspected Ori and Illyria decided to check out what the outsiders had to say.  The fact that Yarrow and his brother wants additional members to join their flock is a believable story, considering that there is safety in numbers.  I am quite curious what their sales pitch is going to be exactly, though I suspect Illyria will not need much convincing.  Though, unfortunately for the four flyers, it now seems that Faris has caught their scent.  It looks like a confrontation is now in making...

A Conversation:

Now this is easily the most powerful chapter yet.  We get to see the remarkable contrast in the relationship between Ori and his brother, which is based upon mutual respect and concern, and the relationship between Illyria and her guardian.  The choice that he makes for her is supposedly for the good of the flock, but one wonders if his motives are actually based in his desire to maintain control and order.  In any case, she has been given a heartbreaking choice, and one which appears to be irrevocable. If she leaves the island then it will be for good.  I think that it is obvious which choice she will make, but in any case it will be something to behold in the chapter to come.

I look forward to seeing what you have in story for us in the next chapter. :)
« Last Edit: November 14, 2021, 09:51:13 PM by rhombus »


Go ahead and check out my fanfictions, The Seven Hunters, Songs of the Hunters, and Menders Tale.


Talset

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Chapter 1: A New Dawn

This chapter was quite interesting and well written where it directs more towards an indepth look on Orri's yearning to set out and explore the wonders beyond his home, out to the Big Water. He seem to be conflicted between wanting to venture out as his father did and not leaving this peaceful abode which seemingly is a repetetive lifestyle, which you presented brilliantly by the way. His brother is quite against the thought of Orri leaving and it is nice seeing more of how their relationship are between them. The dialouges were very engaging as a reader and I enjoyed seeing the process till the conclusion.

We also get to meet some new faces; Illyria, Faris, Yarrow and Yuri. I liked seeing you displaying a bit of the world building where Illyria and Faris home aren't so welcoming of strangers; either you become a part of the residence or you have to leave. Faris and Illyria dialouges really exposed what character and personality they possess and how you showcased it in their conversation was well executed. Yarrow is quite interesting concerning of where you are leading him up to, he came out as nice, but Yuri's influence might bring out a nasty side of him if they conclude to kidnap illyria.

Overall this chapter is impressive and delighting, and I gotta say it again your way with words are captivating by the poetic essence you influence your writing with, which makes it moreso lovely, Nice job!

 :)littlefoot
« Last Edit: November 20, 2021, 05:27:55 AM by Talset »