Disclaimer: Everything relating to the world of Velgarth, and the kingdom of Valdemar, is the sole property of the author Mercedes Lackey.
Notes: I wrote this to try and explain just how Dawnfire was feeling towards the end of Winds of Fate.
Feathers of Fire.
To be honest with you, I’m still getting used to this. I mean it’s not exactly what I expected out of my life, not that I could even pretend to have guessed that something like this would have happened.
I suppose that it was really a combination of bad luck and timing that led up to this, but I don’t really regret it. Rather, I regret what I’ve lost, but I don’t regret my actions.
My first mistake really, was my curiosity—plain nosiness—about the gryphons. I suppose it was voyeuristic of me to use Kyrr to spy on Treyvan and Hydona as they performed their mating flight, but like I said, I was intensely curious about them. Over-curious, maybe, but Darkwind could never really tell me enough about them.
Treyvan and Hydona themselves were also rather…distant towards me. I suppose that, in retrospect, I can understand their reaction to me, but at the time it rankled slightly. I mean, I have—I mean had, such a good rapport with the other non-humans that lived around the Vale.
Of all the Tayledras left after the…accident… with the Heartstone, I was the only one who had a good relationship with the dyheli, kyree and tervadi that lived in the wilderness around our now shattered home.
I know that I was the best scout when it came to talking to both the sentient and non-sentient inhabitants of the forest around k’Sheyna Vale, that they liked me over the others and were more inclined to seek me out, not just for help with solving problems, but for purely social reasons. I suppose I also had a better relationship with most of the hertasi as well, although they were also friendly to some of the other scouts and mages.
So I spied on the gryphons from a distance, using Kyrr, my willing partner, to get near them them. At first I didn’t know that they were going to be mating… I was simply being nosey in light of the fact the Darkwind had specifically told me to keep away from the ruins where the gryphons had their nest, something that he had never done before.
I guess that I wanted to show that I was independent of him—in some obscure way—that just because we are—were lovers, it didn’t give him some kind of monopoly over me, and what I did.
So there I was…well, there Kyrr was, drifting in the air above the ruins by the hertasi swamp as Treyvan and Hydona started their courtship. I really wasn’t there; I was back in the Vale—in my ekele—in a trance. I’m one of the few scouts that has to trance to fully meld with my Bondbird.
I was one of the few scouts that had to trance to fully meld with my Bondbird.
Will I ever get used to this new life? There’s so much that is different.
I think I will always remember the gryphon’s flight, I have never seen anything as graceful and complex. It was almost as if gravity meant nothing to them for the length of that dance. Kyrr was as entranced by their sinuous grace as I, we could have watched forever.
But it was not meant to be, they…finished… and then—it happened—Hydona fell to the ground, one wing torn by a crossbow bolt from the edge of the wilds that cover everything to the west and south of k’Sheyna lands, and Treyvan was hit with a bolt of glowing white fire that smashed him into the ground as he tried to race to his mate’s aid.
For long moments I was frozen with shock, my mind shut down and then ran round in pointless circles as Kyrr kited lower, towards the bruised holes in the canopy where the gryphons had impacted.
Then we saw…something…him. Bad, evil, just wrong. And he was standing over Hydona. Hurting her.
Kyrr took over, and I gladly let her, and we plunged towards him, screaming our rage and defiance.
I remember claws, and sharp teeth in a snarl of anger.
Then blinding pain and shock.
An evil smile.
Waking up and not having Kyrr with me was one of the most frightening moments of my life.
Realising that I was still in my Kyrr’s body was infinitely worse.
I was a prisoner in every sense of the word, and these memories still burn and hurt me, not as much as they did, but still enough that I do not wish to dwell on them.
Not that they are clear, they aren’t, my fear and impotent anger, that rapidly turned to deepest hopelessness, clouded all of my recollections of the time I spent in his thrall.
But he didn’t break me. I survived. I escaped.
It seems so strange to me now that I could barely fly. Kyrr’s body was so alien to me, more alien than I would have believed given that I had been bonded to her since I was ten summers old.
I managed though, somehow.
The relief I felt when Vree found me was overwhelming, and was nearly matched by the pain when I saw Darkwind. Seeing him brought home just how much trouble I was now in.
I think it was only my exhaustion that prevented me from killing myself in blind panic and renewed terror.
The hopeless feeling came back though, and I couldn’t stop it anymore than I could pick up a cup.
That continued as Darkwind, the gryphons—one bright spot was seeing that they were still alive and alright—and the strange Outlanders and their lasha’Kaladra tried to think of a plan to protect the gryphon’s young from him, Falconsbane and what he planned.
They planned, and Falconsbane came for the gryphlets that he had marked as his.
The monster defeated them, and looked as if he was going succeed in taking the gryphlets until Nyara and the female Outlander’s—Elspeth—strange leshya-sword stopped him somehow.
Before Falconsbane, the monster, could really react to that, the Shin’a’in arrived and put paid to his plans. He managed to escape, but their arrows had sorely injured him, and he had failed utterly in his plan to subvert the gryphons or their youngsters.
I watched all this from a perch on a half tumbled lintel that marked the front of the gryphon’s lair.
Even though k’Sheyna is on the edge of the Dhorisha Plains I had never really had much to do with the Shin’a’in. They tend to stay on the Plains and only really venture off them to go to Kata’shin’a’in on the far eastern escarpment. Those that I had seen up to that point had always been brightly garbed, but these were all dressed in un-relieved black and there was… something… about them, although at first I couldn’t guess what.
The strange Clansmen came down into the clearing and the last one of them, a woman, approached me and offered up one hand and a silent message drifted into my mind.
I cannot offer you back your old life, for that is beyond even me.
I stared into Her midnight sky eyes for the longest time.
I can offer you a life however. Will you become Mine?
Is this what I want?
I don’t know.
Do I have any choice?
Can I give up everything I had ever known…ever cared about?
It’s not fair.
Can I stay as I am?
She seemed to know what I was thinking, and simply stood, arm aloft, waiting for me to decide.
I stepped down onto Her gloved hand and a feeling of approval and acceptance filled me, erasing the despair and hopelessness.
Her arm wasn’t even trembling with the exertion of supporting my weight, even though Kyrr—I wasn’t the lightest bird by any stretch, if anything, She lifted me higher, Her gloved arm rock steady beneath me, and I felt a ripple of power run through and around me. The other Shin’a’in started humming, chanting and I could feel them all staring intently at me.
My eyes were on Darkwind and the others. He looked so sad, I could see it in his eyes, but I couldn’t find the words to tell him that it was alright, that I was going to be fine.
That this was what I wanted.
So I tried to show him—and them—instead. As the power filled me, I spread my wings wide, marvelling at the light shining from inside me and the changes it was working on my body. Hoping against hope that they—and he—could sense this too.
As my body changed and grew I could feel a thread of… something… winding through my mind. Blockages I had never even suspected evaporated and knowledge flowed into my altered mind.
This is what you will be, what you will do… The voice whispered to me in the depths of my soul, an echo of winds long gone and the essence of light.
And I understood. I understood why this had happened, why it was necessary, and I accepted it with all of my heart and soul.
My body ceased to glow, and as the illumination faded I perceived that I was no longer in Kyrr’s form, I was no longer a red-shouldered hawk, instead I was a vorcel hawk, a tayles. I could also see so much more than before.
The clearing, and the people, around me were lit up from within by a multitude of lights. Instinctively I looked at Darkwind and, for the first time, I could see his magic, wrapped around him in a glowing shell of translucent light. Strangely, looking at him didn’t hurt like it had before.
I knew why, of course, my new knowledge ensured that, as did my eyes. Although I could see the sadness that stained his face, I could also see a faint wisp, a tie starting to form, stretching from Darkwind to the Elspeth the Outlander, the one soul-tied to the incandescent lasha’Kaladra. If I still could, I would smile faintly at that. He will heal, everyone will heal.
She mounts up and I flip my wings to settle my star-dusted feathers and turn my head for one last look at the occupants of the clearing.
The beating of the black horse’s hooves and the slight creak and jingle of their simple tack is the only sound to be heard from the veiled riders as we speed our way across the Plains. Thoughts and information is still flowing into me from the Lady holding me aloft still and we continue like this until my mind is layered with an understanding of what I am. This helps to dissolve and suppress any regrets I might be feeling and I turn my piercing gaze to the burnished blue of the sky.
At some unseen signal the horses reign in and the Lady lowers her arm, bringing us level, so that I meet Her sky-at-night gaze with one of my own.
Go now jel’enedra, there is much to be done.
I bob my head in agreement and brace myself as She moves Her arm around and, as she flings Her arm up I thrust off with my legs and snap open my wings, gaining the air with a series of powerful wing beats that seem effortless to me compared with my flailing and uncoordinated attempts before.
I spiral upwards on an intangible wind, borne upwards by the power of my mind, until my sharp eyes can make out the dark smudge of the gryphon’s ruins on the distant rim of the Plains.
I have a new chance at life, and this way I can make a difference, more of a difference than I ever could have before. Speaking of which, there are things to be done, I have to prepare for what I know is coming.
Of course I have regrets, doesn’t everyone?
This is my life now, and I intend to use it.