‘I have failed. I should have listened to my brother’s counsel, and to yours, mother. I am not worthy to be HighSoarer’s son. I have brought dishonor to our eyrie.’
He hid his head under his shattered wing.
He was slowly regaining strength and plumage in Healing Cave. He was healing in body, but not
in soul. His mother and another Windlord, skilled in healing, were in attendance.
‘Already NightFlyer taunts me from the cave’s mouth,’ the broken eagle lamented, ‘saying I am fit only as servant-gatherer for the Mawh’eyri folk. And he speaks the truth. He shall win SilverSong as his own, and I shall live forever in shame. Why was I not left to die within Resting Cave,
or left as prey for black Mawharikhὺn?’
‘You have not forfeited your honour, my son, for you attempted the peak in spite of all,’ insisted LightWind reassuringly, smoothing and straightening his remaining feathers. ‘There are many young warriors that dared not.’
‘They dared not because they were not fools and failures, as I am,’ came the bitter reply. ‘I no longer have the will, nor strength and skill. Now my last hope to shine is blown away in the storms of despair!’
‘Your father also first failed,’ his mother calmly replied, ‘because he placed his confidence in his strength and skill rather than upon the great Wind-Spirit. Yet he held fast to his hope.’
‘He failed?’ ThunderWing lifted his head from under his wing in surprise. ‘I did not know this. And did not his failure bring him shame?’
‘He also was young and eager, and swore that he would win me as his nest-mate. He would not wait for counsel. He attempted times many. Mawharikhὺn slept, but your father was defeated by the first Wild Storms of the tempest season, those that do not heed the ambitions of our young warriors, nor the war waged by the Great White Winds. When the time of the blossoms came, he returned, but bowed to the counsel of a Windlord: WindVoice-of-Good-Counsel it was—and learned the ways of the great Wind-Spirit for many moons. Then he triumphed.’
ThunderWing was silent as he dwelt upon his mother’s words. It was the first time in a long while since he had listened to her, and gave thought to her counsel.
The Windlord-healer looked up from his task of applying special earth and herbs to the wounds.
He was WeatherWing the Wise, highly respected among the greatest of the Mawh’eyri, renowned as much for his skills in healing and gift of prophecy as he was for his skills of war. When he spoke, the Mawh’eyri listened.
‘Know also, ThunderWing, son of HighSoarer the Great: Your battle with Mawharikhὺn the Accursed is a lay that is sung in many eyries. For Windlord StrongFeather witnessed it from afar, fearful for your safety, but marvelled that you outwitted such a cunning and mighty foe for so long.’
The wise eagle flew over and settled in front of his patient to address him in the manner of a Windlord-messenger with momentous news.
‘Hear me now also, ThunderWing Mawharhipi! Your seeming rashness in your attempts in this last moon of the gathering season has served us all well. We, the Windlords had not foreseen it, but it came to pass that the first storm of the tempest season came earlier than before. This one had been sent by the great Spirit-Wind. It was Mawharhitan, the White Whirlwind of the mountains, amongst the greatest of the warrior-winds.
He came hunting the Black One on the mountain side, as it has often come to pass. But forever the demon-storm has escaped and hidden within his mountain. This time, you drew him forth away from
any chance to escape the wrath of the White Whirlwind. The pride of the black one defeated him, for his hunting skill was as the great black spiders of the rocks. He would leap from his lair, grasp, and retreat to his dark hole again. Even your father, the greatest of all Windlords in flight, came to grief at his hand, although he evaded capture. Mawharikhὺn has seldom failed to bring down his prey. Your skill and speed foiled him, and that he could not bear. In the folly of his pride, he followed you
long and far, then encountered Mawharhitan who overcame him before he could take you. Now he has been overthrown and is banished forever from the mountains of Mawha!’
‘So you see, O my son, that you have brought honour to our eyrie, not shame!’ sang his mother, relaxing some of her poise to spread her fine wings in exaltation.
‘Honour indeed!’ continued the Windlord. ‘For this was the very matter before Windlords’ Council at your arrival. It was in debate amongst us that if a warrior storm was sent, some of us should try to bait Mawharikhὺn and draw him forth from his lair. But some of us would have perished in the attempt, perhaps even Windlord StormRider the Bold, who has outwitted many a Wild Storm-Spirit, and who offered to lure the enemy forth. You have saved us in your seeming rashness, and now the mountains shall be free of terror for many moons and many seasons. It was for this reason that we carried you here and tended your wounds. We ask that you come before Windlords’ Council when you are whole again, that we may offer you our thanks.’
ThunderWing was overwhelmed. He struggled to his feet and tried to bow before the Windlord, but staggered and fell again. His mother insisted that he stay lying down.
‘I am honoured with many honours, Windlord, fallen fool though I am,’ said ThunderWing. ‘I will come before the Council when I can, if you so bid me.’
Then he sighed and lowered his head to the earth again.
‘Yet even these honours are second in my sight to the right of choosing my own nest-mate. That is now denied me.’
‘Well, the law of the Mawh’eyri is not easily changed,’ acknowledged the Windlord regretfully. ‘But you have won much honour even without the title of Windlord. I counsel you to be content.’
The Windlord soon departed, and his mother soon left also, but not without leaving a gift of two fat hares.
‘…….. Caught for you by your brother, StrongHand, for he also holds you in honour, in brotherhood and in fellowship.’