Wednesday, 26 October 2016
Although he did not lack determination and persistence, Thunder-Wing found it far more difficult than he anticipated. The higher he flew, the thinner the air, and it became an intolerable burden to beat his wings.
In spite of the risks of awakening the demon-storm within the mountain, he rested on many crags on the way up. But each time he looked upward, his heart sank, for it seemed as though he was no nearer the summit than when he began.
Day after day, he doggedly strove upward, rested, then pushed upward again. At last, nightfall forced him to return to Resting Cave for the next day’s attempt. The designated supply of food was diminishing, but he ate little in any case so that he was not unduly weighed down.
One day he made it to the highest crag yet in all his attempts.
He rested a long while. His breath came in desperate gasps in the thinning air.
All of a sudden, he felt strange stirrings in the air. His mother had warned him about unfamiliar winds.
‘But I, ThunderWing Mawharhipi will outfly all strange winds!’ he panted defiantly.
Then he heard the unmistakable warning call of a Windlord from below.
‘Danger! Return to Resting Cave! Dark clouds come! Beware the tempests!’
He hesitated, for he could just see his goal, the Great Summit Mawharikhan, before it was wreathed in fast-moving clouds.
It was so close, he thought, almost within his grasp.
‘ThunderWing Mawharhipi will outfly any strange clouds!’ he declared defiantly.
Gathering all his courage, strength and skill, he leapt into the air once again, his eyes fixed on the great peak looming near. The air was so thin, he was breathing hard and fast, but he held on, unwavering.
So fixed was his gaze, he did not notice the huge, dark cave he was passing. It was like the menacing mouth of a great beast, with jagged teeth-like rocks at its entrance.
Suddenly, without warning, he was enveloped in howling darkness.
Mawharikhὺn had awakened!
It seemed as if the demon-wind had indeed watched for him, and waited for him within the mouth of his cave, as StrongFeather had warned him.
A thick black cloud in the shape of a gloating vulturine face turned towards him, crowned with whirlwind horns and eyes of balled lightning, glowing with hatred of all living things that defied him.
His monstrous, bat-like cloudy wings began to wrap around his prey.
ThunderWing knew he was doomed, for no eagle had ever out-flown the dreaded demon-lord of the peak and lived.
Huge black misty claws reached out to grasp the little eagle, and he cried out in fear.
Then he quickly remembered the maneuver that had saved him from attack by the warriors of the Wild Eagle raiders. (It had also given him the final advantage over NightFlyer in the race through
He quickly folded his wings and dropped like a stone, spreading wings again only to change course or add speed to his descent. The demon-wind, screaming in fury as he saw his prey slip through his fingers, turned and soared downward after him.
Desperately hoping to outrun the demon-storm and find shelter, ThunderWing dodged around boulders and crags, toward the mountain pass.
He had already expended too much strength that day to use his wings effectively, but he managed to avoid capture purely through his manoeuvrability, for which he was famed among his
Nonetheless, his enemy knew the mountains too well to be outwitted for long.
Zooming around the opposite direction of one rocky outcrop, he almost had him as they collided on the other side.
A split second swerve only just saved ThunderWing from the enemy’s clutches.
But Mawharikhὺn was also a master of winds. He blew at his quarry with all his strength, loosening rocks and stirring up the air all around them.
A sudden updraft from this made ThunderWing lose balance. A sharp fragment of loosened stone flew at him, glancing him on the shoulder.
The pain of it caused him to cry out. But his courage rose whenever an impossibility challenged his resolve. He was, after all, the son of Windlord HighSoarer.
‘May the White Warriors take you, accursed demon! Slay me if you can!’
One wing was now almost useless. He dropped again. His enemy pursued, his dark breath preceding him. Another gust struck him like a body blow from a monstrous fist and threw him against the far cliff face of the mountain.
Feathers scattered as ThunderWing, dazed, plummeted toward a familiar valley where he saw Resting Cave. He had just enough feathers to break his fall, although the break in his left wing hurt terribly.
He lay in a dazed heap, but his ordeal was not over yet.
He heard a rumbling sound above him, so he struggled to his feet, expecting to feel cold, black fingers take him and crush the life out of him.
Although he heard howling and thundering above him, the final blow did not come.
Once again, the strange breezes he had ignored before blew around him.
Whirling white clouds gathered above. It grew darker still.
Thunder and lightning echoed around the valley and a torrent of rain came down, causing the cave entrance to teem with running water.
Screams, howls and roars filled the air. It seemed as if war was unleashed among the mountain peaks. It had often been said among the Eyri of the Central Mountains that the Wild Tempests would rage
against each other as they fought like wild beats for supremacy in the mountain passes.
Mawharikhὺn had always prevailed over the rest, being stronger and far too cunning.
ThunderWing had heard of the battles between the Wild Tempests in the mountains, but he had lived too far away to be concerned about them.
Perhaps the demon-storm would be too occupied to continue the chase. Perhaps he was safe at last.
Then he heard the rumbling again, but not the sound of moving air this time.
He looked up to see a large torrent of snow and rocks rapidly descending upon him, down the slope.
As a malicious parting blow, the demon-storm had unleashed an avalanche upon him.
Desperately, ThunderWing half flew and half staggered toward the entrance nearby. He only just made it inside as moments later, the cave filled with white snow-mist before the light faded completely.
He was safe for the moment, but that now meant nothing to him.
He gave a cry of despair.
‘I have lost all! My honour, my wing, my hope! Oh, if I had only been slain by black Mawharikhὺn!’
The roar of the tumult outside was now less than the roaring tumult inside his head, his labouring lungs, the hopelessness in his heart and the throbbing pain of his left wing.
He finally lost consciousness.
Monday, 3 October 2016
It was not merely the height that daunted most eagles, but it was spoken in Windlords’ lore that the lord of all demon-storms, Mawharikhὺn slept within the mountain peak.
Prouder than the proudest eagle, he ruled the lands with fear. He rarely ventured forth in those days, partly for fear of the mighty servant-winds of the Great Spirit Wind, who hunted for him.
However, he hated the proud wingfolk of the mountains who would not acknowledge his lordship. It was said that High-Soarer, ThunderWing’s father, had fallen to his death after being struck by Mawharikhὺn in one of his rampages. ThunderWing still bore the grief from the day that the Windlord messenger brought the news of his death.
‘I defy you, evil Mawharikhὺn!’ he called fiercely as he watched a dark cloud sweep across the great peak. ‘You shall be humbled, though I fall in the attempt.’
His challenging call, similar to that of eagles about to do battle, echoed across the valley. As if in answer, a distant rumble emanated from within the great peak itself.
This distracted the Windlord Council, and they glanced in his direction.
The eldest of them spread his wings and flew across to his perch.
ThunderWing knew the old eagle well. He had a few bald patches and scars. His remaining feathers were rough, but he still flew strongly and held his head proudly. They bowed to each other and Thunder-Wing’s beak touched the rock before his senior in deep respect, for he stood before none other than StrongFeather, Father-of-Many, Lord of the Western Crags.
Not the least of his children was SilverSong the Fair.
‘Hail, ThunderWing Mawharhipi, son of HighSoarer! Your father was my greatest wingfellow, and we grieve at his fall.’
‘Hail, Windlord StrongFeather, Father-of-Many! You honour us in that you remember our father in great kindness. Do your eyries prosper? Do all your eaglets fly high and strong?’
The elder eagle gave a laughing hiss.
‘You are courteous! But in truth you ask only for the health and dwelling place of SilverSong, my daughter—this I know well. She thrives, but she presently sojourns upon the Northern Mountains where the singers-of-the-wind gather until the storm season comes. She teaches my eaglets in the ways of the Great Spirit-Wind’s song. But she often remembers you with kindness.’
ThunderWing hung his head in embarrassment for a moment, but then lifted it proudly.
‘It is true that I desire SilverSong the Fair as my nest-mate, Windlord StrongFeather. I seek to conquer the peak and so to win the right to choose her.’
StrongFeather shook out his neck feathers and settled back to stare piercingly for a moment at the younger one before him.
‘I hope that you have her favour in this, for I see the spirit of your father is in you. I would gladly give my daughter to such a one.’
The young eagle hung his head again, overcome with gratitude and gratification. But was this not his due, as a son of Windlord HighSoarer?
He lifted his head proudly, only to hear not so good news.
‘NightFlyer, son of SwiftSlayer came yestersun on the same errand,’ continued StrongFeather, still watching him closely. ‘But he contemned the traditions of the Mawh’eyri and spoke his desire before the Council were ready to hear him. He demanded his right for the trial of the peak. He was sent away until the changing of the moon as penalty for his disrespect.’
‘Then I have come not a moment too soon, Windlord!’
‘Yes, he rivals you in many things, and never forgave you for defeating him at the Mawharhipi trials. But still, he is one hunting season your senior. Are you not too young to attempt the Summit? The season of tempests draws near also.’
‘I am the Swiftest in the Mountains, Windlord,’ answered Thunder-Wing in barely-restrained impatience. ‘Does that not show I am ready for the attempts? By the wings of the moon, I swear that I will conquer the peak before the coming of the storms!’
StrongFeather tilted his head a little in doubt, but said, ‘Very well. Windlord Council has allowed for one attempt, and you are the last of this season to do so. NightFlyer must await the passing of the tempest season. Do you need guidance?’
‘I need no guidance, Windlord.’
ThunderWing was too impatient and too proud to delay the process any longer.
The elder eagle shook all his feathers and sighed.
‘You indeed follow the same flight as your father. All must rise or fall by their own wing-beat, it seems. Go then! I will warn you of this only: Beware of the black cave of the southern face. Do not rest upon the crags thereof, for it is manifest that Mawharikhὺn is stirring again, and comes
forth at night to terrify the eyrie-folk of these mountains at times. Fear and terror is as his meat and drink. Yet he hides again in his caves here for fear of the good White Wind Warriors, Servants of the Great Spirit-Wind. Be vigilant, for that demon-storm may be on the watch for us.
You must return before sun’s rest, or you are easy prey to night-eyes of the evil one. It is not as easy to attempt the peak as it was in the days of my youth. There has not been any Reigning Windlord for many hunting seasons.’
He paused, waiting for a response. But since these warnings also did not seem to daunt the young eagle, the Windlord turned to more everyday practicalities.
‘There is fresh-killed prey and a water stream at need within Resting Cave, near the mountain’s pass. A Windlord shall watch from afar to judge your progress and witness your success, if indeed you do
He lifted up his voice in a Windlord’s song to the great Spirit-Wind.
‘Go, young warrior! May the great Wind-Spirit bear you upward!’
ThunderWing bowed again and leapt off the ledge, his wings spread wide, his eyrie’s war-cry on his tongue.
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