Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ceremony of Wings - Short Story


This is a short story I wrote a few months ago because the idea popped into my head. :)

Ceremony of Wings
    I stood before my family in the gathering room of our home, trying to ignore the inflamed itching on my back. In just a few minutes I would get relief, but for right now all I could think about was wanting to tear into my wing pouches – to let my wings free and end the torment of my back. My new dress had gaps just big enough for my wings when they were released, but even the cool air did nothing to lessen the itch.
   Please Grandma, hurry! I silently pleaded. My plea came at the right time, for she intoned the last words a mere second after.
   “And thus, Zallafay was born.” Her eyes connected with mine and I tried to stand a little straighter. She stepped towards me and laid a worn hand against my cheek. “Now she is ready to stand among us, an adult.”
   My father dipped his head at me, a brief look of approval crossing his face, while my mother beamed with obvious joy. Kalla and Treav, the next oldest after me, had barely disguised looks of envy on their faces, though I knew they were happy for me. My littlest brother, not even old enough to show signs of his wing pouches, poked an inquisitive finger at a bug on the slated floor with the unconcern of a child.
   From a sheathe at her waist Grandmother withdrew the ceremonial knife and walked behind me, her black wings brushing my shoulders lightly. One hand touched the left-side sac, causing ripples of itchy agony to crawl across the surface. A slight pressure, then the blade slashed through the bulging wing sacs and I bit my tongue to keep from crying out. Liquid from within them slid down my back in slick warm trails. The itching was gone, replaced by a stinging sensation that even now faded.
   Grandmother came back around to face me. “Release your wings, Zallafay.”
   The muscles in my back flexed and I strained to extend my wings. There was a wet, slightly squelchy sound, and they came out all the way.
   My family's eyes widened, almost as one. My mother squeezed my father's hand and exchanged looks, their black wings brushing against each other. Grandmother inhaled sharply. I fought the urge to turn around and look at my wings, for tradition forbade it.
   Were they badly twisted? A boy I knew, Len, his wings had come out twisted on his wing day. He claimed it didn't bother him, since they would've been broken anyway, but I couldn't think like that. Everyone knew that deformed wings lessened your chances to be on Warrior's Way, for many still believed they were a sign of a curse from Elondi.
   Ha. When our whole race is cursed, what are a few twisted wings? I thought, bitterly.
   Grandmother swallowed and her face took on a look of calm, though I could still see her gaze flicking to my wings. She opened her mouth to begin the end of the ceremony.
   The place of our tribe – I knew it by by heart, and what she would say, for I had memorized it and whispered it to myself many nights... on the nights when I cried that Fate, (or Elondi, as Grandmother still believed) had chosen me to be of this tribe.
   I clenched my jaw and let the words play over in my mind:
   'Zallafay, you are a daughter of the darkness. The dark calls to you and blackness clings to your feathers. While you live, you are to atone for the evil of your ancestors for destroying a tribe and bringing darkness to the Hervn lands. Your wings shall be broken and torn, for none among the Yekwa shall fly when they still have blood guilt within their hearts.'
   This was the curse of our tribe. When those last words were spoken, they would break my wings and cut the main muscles, so I would never fly. For the past one-hundred and fifty years we had been paying for the evil of Gern, leader of the tribe in those years, who had lead our tribe into battle. In his conquest to rule, thousands had died... and the entire tribe of Nellestaz had been wiped out. The other tribes rose up in protest and he, and almost every Yekwa, was slaughtered and the land was plunged into darkness. Those left alive, repented, and swore before Elondi to pay atonement... All these years later and our land still hung in a state of twilight, and none of us had once flown... We used to be people with the strength and endurance of the mountains, but now struggled to pick out an existence in the impoverished land.
   Grandmother startled me out of my thoughts as she began to speak. “Zallafay,” she stopped abruptly, her voice cracking at the end of my name.
   I gave her an odd look. What was wrong?
   She cleared her throat and began again. “Zallafay... You are a daughter of the light.” Her voice wavered, but she took a deep breath and continued on, “The sun calls to you and the morning whispers in your feathers. While you live, you are to bring joy with your music, and shine the reflection of the songs of Elondi. Your strength shall lie in the glow of the sun and the warmth of the firelight.”
   For a moment I was frozen, but somehow the words I'd practiced so many times rolled off my tongue.
   “I shall stand among the people of my flock, and bring strength to their lands.” Then, I turned my head to look at my wings. Though still damp and bedraggled, the feathers glistened in bright golden hues.
   I was of the light.
   My wings were that of the Nellestaz tribe that had been dead for over one-hundred years.

~Ophelia - Marie

Copyright © 2013 Ophelia M. Flowers

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