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Manastorm Snippet: The Right Encouragement

I may have mentioned this already, but once or twice is never enough. I’ve taken it upon myself to write a book series and I’m in the middle of writing book one. I thought it would be finished at about 90-100k, but alas, I will most likely be wrong about that. At the moment, it looks like this book will probably cash in somewhere around 150k, so yay, this will take forever!

Admittedly, I have a hard time not throwing bits and pieces of the story at random passers-by, but I managed to contain myself so far. Not any longer though.

Continue reading to find out what you’re waiting for!

Searchlights found them as soon as they hit open terrain.

Craig ran, glancing back once to make sure the soldiers hadn’t mobilized yet. Outside, the quarry and its newly erected military base rocky desert awaited them, surrounded by the almost completely darkened city on the left and a jagged mountain range on the right. Tall, dark and gruesome, as Eric called their new ally, had taken the lead but paced himself until Craig was back beside him. Even with one of his wings bleeding and drooping a little, the dark one loped along like a gazelle, calmly surveying the area as Craig huffed and puffed and had to widen his step to keep pace.

“Where to?” the dark one asked, outrageously non-breathless. Craig pointed towards the mountains and he veered off, leaving the three ex-humans to clamber after him. Further back, the sounds of sirens, car engines and megaphones filled the area.

“They’ll catch up to us if we stay on even ground much longer,” Eric wheezed, wings flapping confusedly with each step. “We need to get up high where they can’t drive.”

Their impromptu leader sounded unperturbed. “So we should run faster?” he asked, impossibly speeding up and slowing down again when none of them could keep up with him.

Craig was too out of breath for full sentences by this point. “Can’t,” he gasped, stumbling over a rock and catching himself on the stranger’s shoulder.

Puzzlement. “Then fly, it would be much faster than this unwieldy way of traveling.”

“Can’t,” Craig repeated, pumping his arms to match the speed the stranger had set.

“Did they send lightning into your wings too?”

“What? No, we’ve never flown before, that’s all!”

That finally made the stranger lose a step. He quickly paced himself and sped up again, but surprise was written on his face and he finally was breathing a little harder than before. It gave Craig a small sliver of satisfaction.

“You have never flown before?”

Head shakes and breathless negations.

“Then you are not from my clan?”

Another round of stumbling head shakes, followed by groans as the terrain turned steeper and the rocks more numerous.

“Then why did you rescue me from the humans?”

“Why not?” Craig shrugged, dodging a boulder as big as a car. “You’re one of us, aren’t you? Whatever ‘us’ is.”

The stranger fell silent for a while, but he didn’t slow down. The group reached the foothills of the mountains and what amounted to flash flood gulleys, which meant a lot of climbing, jumping, and near-falls. The sheer danger of passing though terrain like that in the middle of the night made silence a necessity.

They were crawling up a rockfall gorge when the stranger halted, turned and looked down at them. “I am Ealdræd,” he offered, frowning and shuffling his weight as he stretched his wings. The left one still drooped a little, but he looked much better than before. He huffed triumphantly.

Craig pulled myself up next to him, pumping air like bellows and not making the effort of getting up on his legs. “Nice to meet ‘cha, Eldred. I’m Craig.”

“No. Ealdræd,” he repeated, doing things with his tongue and gums that just weren’t humanly possible.

“Give me some leeway here, Eldred is the best I can do.”

Craig groaned and rolled on his back, flapping his wings and tail against the sandy ground as the burning in his legs and lungs slowly receded. Eric was still further down and busy helping Jenny up the murderous incline, but he seemed fine, contrary to Jenny. Damned military stamina.

“Can we rest here for a while? I don’t think I can go on much longer,” Craig said, pushing his fingers delicately on the stinging pain in his chest.

Ealdræd twitched his tail and slapped the pointy tip softly against Craig’s cheek. He smiled down on him, a lazy, tooth-baring smirk, and sighed. “I do think the humans will not be able to get here anytime soon, so yes. But there are lights in the night sky about where we came from, and they seem to draw closer, if slowly.”

“Helicopters,” Eric said, dragging Jenny up those last few feet. She was crying again, this time from obvious exhaustion, and didn’t even try to move from the spot where he dropped her.

“Is that some kind of dragon?” Ealdræd asked, tilting his head curiously.

Eric and Craig exchanged a glance, then shrugged. Weirder things had happened in the last few days, so why not dragons?

Eric sat down and laid a hand on his sister’s shoulder. “No, they aren’t creatures. They are, eh, contraptions that run on, uhm, lightnings and are controlled by humans. They can fly and they will catch up to us sooner or later,” he explained, his brows wiggling with confusion.

Ealdræd frowned and turned back to the spectacle in the distance. “Lightning contraptions,” he murmured, “What strange new things this world has given birth to while I was sleeping. “

He tilted his head and shook his wings, as if shuddering at his own thoughts. The leathery rustle echoed eerily through the ravine below. “You will have to tell me more, but first we shall take to flight and get as far away from this place as possible. Flying is silent and the night will offer shelter, shake them off our trail.”

Craig sat up, grumbling as he worked the tips of his wings out from underneath my butt. Damn unwieldy things. “I told you already, we don’t know how to fly.” That, and the thought of flying terrified him. He had fallen down his parents’ roof one drunken night and bruised his ribs. Breathing had hurt for half a year and the experience had taught him to fear anything above head level. Craig didn’t even own a step-ladder anymore, because what would have been the point if he didn’t climb it?

“That is easily fixed, but not an immediate worry,” Ealdræd said, slowly turning on his own axis as he examined the horizon. He halted, then pointed south-east at another mountain range. “Do you know what lies over there?” he asked.

Not an immediate worry? Are you kidding me?

Craig was in immediate worry at the thought of leaving the ground, but that could wait. He shuffled around and scratched his temple, then shrugged. “That’s the Rosita Springs Mountains. It’s got some hiking trails on the city-side slopes, but most of it is a native reserve.”

He paused, then added, “That means it’s an area where special rules apply and not many people live there. The mountains are very treacherous and wild and there are only a few roads. Why do you ask?”

The smile on Ealdræd’s face was vicious with triumph. He turned away from the beautiful view and offered Craig a hand, pulling him up when he took it. Another round of tingling fingers.

“It is the highest land in the vicinity of your city and it is not populated, if your words are correct. If others from my clan survived, they will gather there and look for shelter. Caves, castles, mansions, anything offering protection from the elements. We, too, will travel there,” he explained, keeping a hold on Craig’s hand as if he, too, was enjoying the closeness.

Eric got up and took his sister’s hand, pulling her up much like Ealdræd had done with Craig. “Okay, but that’s a distance of a good six miles, more if we walk. We will never make it before sunrise,” he said.

“We will fly. Then we will find a good place to weather the day, and fly again in the coming night,” Ealdræd repeated, raising a hand to stop the protests before they had a chance to erupt. “It will come to you naturally, you will see. Trust me on this. I have seen my share of fledglings in my existence, and each and every one of them spread their wings and soared, given the right encouragement.”

Jenny hugged Eric’s tail, huddling in on herself even when upright. “What do you mean by ‘encouragement’?” she whispered, as if too afraid to ask.

Ealdræd smiled, but the smile grew into a wicked grin that bared his long, sharp canines. “This,” he said.

Then he turned, twisted, and hurled Craig off the high cliff like a shot-put ball.

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