Serphel

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Fantasy  |  House: Booksie Classic
Serphel- winged beings much like humans- live in a world that begins about five-hundred feet above the ground, on cliffs so sharp no plants even attempt to cling to them. Their entire world was ringed by those steep masses of stone. But there is a land below, called Lehl, that's green and alluring to the younger generations.

Disobedient Serphel began to be sheared of their wings and thrown down into Lehl to live with the monsters hidden by the tree leaves.

Suparna was born into this world where those who refused to conform lose everything they have even known. As a messenger, Suparna enjoys a curtailed freedom and protection from the threat of a shearing. But what will she do when she faces the very real people who the Serphel have been inadvertently hurting for so long? What will she do in Lehl?

Submitted: March 16, 2010

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Submitted: March 16, 2010

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FOR YOUR INFORMATION, YOU SHOULD PROBABLY START HERE. JUST A SUGGESTION, THOUGH. FEEL FREE TO DO WHATEVER YOU LIKE. I MEAN, IT’S YOUR BOOK… IT’S MY STORY, BUT YOUR BOOK…
There is really only one world that Serphel ever see. It begins about five-hundred feet above the ground, on cliffs so sharp no plants even attempt to cling to them. My entire world was ringed by those steep masses of stone. The air was my home, and so were the cliffs, just like the more feeble hawks we sometimes compared ourselves to. Though, if you really wanted to find an animal we looked most like, it would be… human. UGH! Anyway, clans of Serphel roosted among the rocks, or in the caves, on tents anchored into the stone. To get from place to place, the Serphel flew on wings more beautiful than any bird’s, with feathers of every color.
Below our place, our Jalyr, there was another world entirely. We couldn’t land down there in Lehl. The trees sheltered monsters and stinking vermin. It was too dangerous in those places, and so most of the world was bared from us.
We were a strong people. No one could move as quickly as we could. None of the other creatures had such a strong level of endurance. Nevertheless, their numbers did pose a threat. Because of that, and our naturally cautious and slowly changing nature, it took hours to fly from nest to camp, camp to city. We had no choice but to fly around the very edge of the world to avoid the treacherous forest. Few flew more than a few miles from their homes, and fewer Serphel ever left their own clans to journey to another. 
As any nation will tell you, it is impossible to survive in parts and pieces. The Serphel had to keep in communication with one another which required messengers to fly on routine courses. The tribal leaders sent the messengers from camp to camp. For years, this technique worked. The Serphel stayed in Jalyr, and the rest of the world continued on without knowing anything of their high-flying neighbors. Then, when no one was expecting it, the world suddenly became more dangerous. Children began questioning the Serphel’s ways. Teenagers outright refused to stay out of the forest.
We became afraid of what we could not stop. How could the tribal leaders keep everyone safe, when no one listened to them? A darker period of history began. Children who refused to obey their parents were turned out. Their friends and family refused them a place to land when night came and their wings were tired. Messengers carried orders for arrests and wanted posters. Those who had complained or disobeyed or even threatened to think independently had their wings shorn. They were thrown down to the forest they had once starred longingly at.
Years passed. Adults did not blame their leaders for the loses they had suffered, but instead blamed the forest, or even their missing children. The next generation, my generation, was brought up to know and fear the rules, the consequences, and the restrictions.
I became a messenger when I came of age, mostly because I was dying for freedom. Messengers weren’t as bound by the rules as the others. For example, we were allowed to fly after dark. We did not need a written sheet of permission for our journeys.
“Messages must be sent,” my leader, TriLeon, had once explained to my childhood class. “We would never get any news if the messengers were stopped every night, or by every Serphel they passed.”
I flew almost weekly now. Since it did not make any sense to me, taking the longer ways around Lehl, and since it had been years since the last disappearance… and since the rules did not apply so strictly to me, I flew right over the forest. Nothing had ever happened to me. I was cocky about it, and secretly thought all the fuss over the danger was simply fluff. I saw nothing perilous in the sea of leaves I glided over so often.
I could very nearly make it from one side to the other in one day. That was my challenge for the year, my eighteenth year. I flew a little faster, and worked a little harder, but never made it over before dark. My brother told me it was impossible.
 
A STUPID IDEA I SHOULD HAVE ACTUALLY GIVEN SOME THOUGHT TO BEFORE PLUNGING IN
 
It was so warm out! Dang it! Of course, I could have waited for the weather to cool down, but then I would lose the daylight.
 I really was not built for heat. My baggy, backless shirt was great for allowing my wings movement, but in hotter weather it seemed to weigh more than I did. I wore long pants as well, which didn’t help. In my defense, it had been much colder that morning up on the cliffs.
Time passed quickly, marked by the beat of my beautiful, red-gold wings. By midday, I was over the halfway point. The wind was amazing! It pushed me faster than I could normally manage.
Maybe, I thought, I will make it this time. At this rate, it might happen... 
I was hurrying. The air current I was on, the one that was pushing me so fast, curved down a bit. I didn’t even think about finding a new breeze. The current dove down lower and lower, ‘til I just barely skimmed over the leaves. This air felt so good under my wings. Why should a myth I didn’t even believe in keep me from it?
I heard nothing but the wind shrieking in my ears. If I hadn’t been trying to prove a point, this is probably the point where I realized that being deaf was not a good thing. If I had gone slower, I might have heard the bowstring snap. I might have heard the shaft whistling though the air. Instead, I only felt the arrow stab into my wing. I turned instantly, rolling in the air, hopelessly trying to see my wing and find my enemy at the same time.
That was it. I couldn’t move my right wing like that, much less support weight on it. I couldn’t even slow my fall. Branches ripped at me. They tore my clothes, cut my face, bruised my skin. All the while, I was looking for some way to stop myself. There! I grabbed a thick branch. It held my weight for an instant, and then snapped off in my hand.
I landed on the ground with a thud. Oh, my wing hurt! I blinked the pain away, and then tried to find my attacker. Somewhere… Somewhere… There! Jumping down from the tree I’d just fallen through. A small man, with bright green hair.
Stupid Woodspirit. He’ll pay for this, I swore to myself.
And… another… there! On the ground, walking toward me…
“What did you get, Micko?”
“Messenger,” said the one from the trees.
I tried to get up. The one on the ground walked up to me and slammed his boot straight into my stomach. I gasped and turned away from him.
“Why didn’t you finish it?” he asked. “Mercy’s not like you…”
“Tribal leaders started taking to verbal messages. Doesn’t do us much good, killing her, if the information is in her head.”
The Woodspirte sat down against a tree five feet away. He slung his bow over his shoulder. I was going to break that thing if it was the only thing I did today! I felt the other grab me by the hair at the nape of my neck. He stood me up as if I weighed nothing.
“Your message, please,” he ordered.
It took me a moment to find my voice.
“I haven’t got one. And even if I did, I wouldn’t-”
He threw me into another tree. My thoughts were racing around in a head that throbbed almost as badly as my wing. Who is this guy? He’s stronger than me. There’s got to be some way to get out of here… if I don’t, soon, he’s going to kill me underneath these cursed trees.
I tried to find the man again, but the only one I saw was the Woodspirit. He was looking over my shoulder. I though I saw a bit of a glint in his eye… I shoved myself away from the tree. The man’s fist connected with the trunk, right where I had just been.
I got a good look at him. He was tall, about the same height as me, and strong. Dark hair fell over tan skin. Two slim, jet black wings sprouted from his shoulders... Impossible! The feathers weren’t even clipped!
“Traitor,” I murmured without realizing it.
“I don’t think so,” he replied easily. “But, then, I don’t really care what a brainwashed Serphel like you thinks, so call me what you like.”
I glanced around. There had to be some way out of this mess. The annoying thing was that I wasn’t lying. I had no message. This was all happening because I couldn’t ignore a challenge. Well, now the challenge would be getting out alive.
“So, now,” he continued, moving so fast he blurred. “Let’s have that message.”
He grabbed my crippled wing, twisting it. I shrieked, falling onto my hands and knees. Maybe the Woodspirit would survive this.
“I don’t have one,” I repeated.
He gripped my wing lower, closer to my shoulder. A new flow of blood began. I didn’t feel, at first, what he was doing. Then my wing ached. Then burned. Then screamed. He was pulling it out of the socket!
“I’m waiting,” he snapped.
“You’re waiting for the sun to set in the east and the moon to rise in the morning,” I spat.
He let go, backing away as if I’d hurt him. Why? I couldn’t say, but I was glad for the moment of relief. Then he was back, hand reaching for me again. I grabbed his wrist, but he wasn’t doing anything but turning my face up now, looking. He didn’t hurt me any more than he already had. I tried to be subtle, shifting my right wing. At least he’d stopped before really dislocating it. The man’s free hand shot out, seizing my good wing….the same way human’s grabbed each other’s wrists, stopping me but not trying to do any hurt.
“Your TriGabor’s messenger?”
I didn’t know how to answer. Should I say no, or should I pretend that was the truth? I supposed that everything was a secret from a traitor. TriLeon surely wouldn’t want me to speak his name here. Maybe I was supposed to keep my mouth shut…?
“Why don’t I remember you?” he whispered before demanding,  “Your name, girl!”
Well, that was easy. I smiled up at him, bitter and filled with enough  pain that I couldn’t think very well.
“Hell. No.”
“You really might get farther talking,” the ‘sprite called.
I didn’t look away from my attacker. He was still studying me as if I were some puzzle he couldn’t figure out; almost as if he couldn’t see my face clearly.
“Do I care what you think, elf?” I shot back quickly.
“I’m not an elf!” he cried, grabbing up his bow. “Ja, move aside. This one’s finished!”
“Ja?” I jeered. “It’s a little girly, don’t you think?”
Mocking him might not elongate my life, but I didn’t think anything could. Why not have a little fun… while I could.
“Iraja,” he explained. “Micko, get lost.”
The Woodspirte harrumphed and stormed off into the distance. Believe it or not, the trees became menacing without his presence. I might have called him back if not for the facts that A) he and I already hated each other B) he wanted to kill me and C) this Iraja would have made him go anyway.
“You really won’t tell me your name?” Iraja asked again.
“That is how most people would interpret ‘hell no.’”
I tried to sit up farther, and gasped when my wing moved. That hurt! There was blood dripping down from the arrow still stuck near the joint. I could barely see it, so there was no way I could pull it out on my own.
“Do you want me to…?”
He reached up for the arrow. I lurched to my feet and backed away from him.
“No!”
“How can you be standing?”
“Breeding? Training? Plain necessity?”
“I’m not going to hurt you-”
“Says the guy who threw me into a half a dozen trees.”
“Look…”
He kept talking, but I didn’t hear him. I was trying to subtly find an escape route. Maybe I couldn’t fly, but I could still run. It was a desperate plan predestined to fail, but it was also the only possible way I had out.
“… and whenever you decide to listen again…”
“Is the forest really as dangerous as I’ve been told?” I asked suddenly.
“It… can be.”
“Hmmm,” I sighed. “You know, I think I’ll take my chances.”
I bolted down a worn animal trail. The branches seemed to descend just to scrape me. All right by me! That meant Iraja, whose footfalls I could hear pounding away behind me, couldn’t take off. I might be able to outrun the man. I couldn’t outrun the bird.
Faster, faster. My legs protested every step, but I didn’t slow down. I couldn’t, not if I planned on living any longer.
Maybe I should explain more about the shape of the world. The forest itself is fairly round, but the cliffs are jagged. There was one rock ledge that jutted farther out than any of the others. I headed for that outcropping. I knew if I could get there, I’d be safe. Iraja might follow me through the woods, but he wouldn’t follow into a Serphel camp. He just couldn’t.
It was getting dark. The forest was truly beginning to scare me, especially since I couldn’t see the sky anymore. How did anyone live like this? I was crowded beneath plants and trapped between trunks. But there was the cliff! I could see it, rising sheer in front of me.
I skidded to a stop. Sheer. Sheer! Never in my life had I realized how isolated our camps were. You couldn’t possibly get anywhere without wings. Obviously, I lacked wings at the moment. Maybe…
I bit the inside of my cheek to keep the coming sound in. My wings flung open. There was blood in my mouth, but I couldn’t keep the scream in. It sounded off the cliff walls. Blood streamed down my feathers, too. Nevertheless, the wing was open. I took a deep breath to steady myself. One flap and I was off the ground. Then the beat of my wings was the only thing, other than pain, on my mind.
“Halt!” a sentry screeched.
“Can’t,” I managed.
He flapped down, clearly ready to challenge me. One look at my wing, and even in the dark, he knew better. The man, well, boy really, swooped down and threw my arm over his shoulder. We just barely landed before I passed out.
 
 
SO I HEALED AT LEBEN AND FLEW TO ALGRAT
 
I came to in a dark cave. Part of me wanted to leap for joy. I’d survived! I was too tired to move,  but I was alive!
For Serphel, healing is a matter of hours and days. At the very worst, a nearly severed limb, flu and poisoning all together can take maybe two or three weeks to feel well again. However, healing so quickly takes all of our energy. Breathing, healing, and sleeping. That’s all I did for the next three days.
It was nearly torture, being cooped up for even that long. My wing was torn, but, miraculously, no bones were broken. A few were bruised, but that had almost healed by the time I was conscious.
I was in the home of TriColi. An elderly woman cleaned my wing every morning and every night. My nest was warm and comfortable, though I would have preferred my own any day.
I woke up on my fourth morning feeling almost as good as new, except for the scarring on my wing.
“Feeling better?” TriColi asked, stepping into the cave.
“Thank you, TriColi, yes.”
TriColi walked along the perimeter of the room. She had mastered a way of appearing disinterested while noting everything about a particular creature or space. I wished I could imitate that, but I couldn’t.
“When do you think you can fly again?”
“That depends on the distance, TriColi,” I answered slowly.
“Algrat?”
I stood up and stretched my wings.
“I’m not sure about speed, TriColi, but I can get there.”
“Good.”
She threw me a thick leather belt.
“TriColi?”
“The message is in there. TriGabor will know how to get it out.”
“Then I’ll head out now, TriColi.”
“Wait! Wait! Wait!” she called just as I was about to take off. “Grenfell reminded me, it’ll be much colder in Algrat.”
TriColi tossed me a thick fur coat. The sleeves were longer than my arms, but that was all right. It would keep my hands warm. The hood was fuzzy and drooped over my eyes, but that would keep the wind away. The one thing I really could not look brightly on was the back. The hole for my wings was too long and low. It bunched up around my shoulder blades, where the wings connected, and dropped down past the tops of my pants.
Deal with it, I told myself.
The jacket restricted me, but otherwise, it was an uneventful flight. I could not gather the courage to fly over the forest. Actually, I kept it two hundred feet to the side and below.
Snow dotted the rocks and stung my wings as I grew closer to Algrat. Of course, there were no caves here to take shelter in. Of course. I had to wait outside while a sentry ran to find TriGabor.
Part of me wanted to go find Obasi’s home. He’d made this frozen place his home for no reason I could understand. But his personality was always sunny. My godfather would have a warm nest for me. He’d have food and water straight from the spring. I couldn’t go find him, though. I had to deliver my message, and then I had to go home. TriLeon would be missing me by now.
“Suparna!”
“Good evening, TriGabor,” I called.
“Well, now, come in! Who told you to stand out in the cold like that? Hagar, warm some tea for TriLeon’s frozen little messenger.”
The jocular old man threw his arm around my shoulders and drew me into his large tent. It was instantly warmer, but I was glad I still had the coat.
“Now, what news from the south?” TriGabor asked.
“No, wait! Sit down, fledgling, and drink first,” Hagar ordered, shuffling into the room.
Hagar was TriGabor’s wife, so it always surprised me that she waited on guests herself. As far as I knew, she didn’t have a single household servant. The woman cooked and cleaned and ran her home all alone.
“TriGabor, I haven’t come from the south,” I felt duty bound to explain. “TriColi sent me.”
“Odd,” he mused. “Well, what does the stone hawk have to say?”
I set down my steaming drink - heavenly - and fumbled with the belt buckle. Then I handed it to TriGabor.
“TriColi said you would understand…”
He ran his fingers over the worn leather belt. Then TriGabor slipped his finger into a slit I hadn‘t even noticed. He toyed with it a bit, barely managing to extract a slip of paper no bigger than my thumb. He skimmed the contexts of the note before tossing it into the fire.
“Anything new?” Hagar asked.
“Another few troublemakers thrown down to Lehl. Just a reminder that I can’t let them climb up here,” TriGabor replied almost sadly. “I’m starting to think Coli’s a bit strict over there… She won’t have anyone else to order around at this rate.”
“Hmm… How did you manage to injure your wing, little one?” Hagar asked kindly.
“I… umm…”
“I didn’t mean to pry,” she said apologetically.
“No, milady, it’s embarrassing, but I… TriGabor, may I suggest your messengers stay farther away from the forest than usual. The Lehl scum have taken to using arrows.”
“They shot you?” TriGabor asked.
“I was stupid, flying low when I should have been far away from that place.”
“Well, yes, I’ll make a note of it… I suppose you would like to stop in on your godfather,” TriGabor said on a lighter note. “Go on, then. Send Obasi my greetings.”
“You do not have a return message, TriGabor?”
“I’ll send my own messenger, Suparna. I believe you deserve an easy flight home.”
“But wait ‘til morning at least!” Hagar suggested.
“Thank you, TriGabor, milady.”
I left that tent in higher spirits.
Warm nest here I come!
It took ten minutes to fly up to Obasi’s tent. His was the highest of the settlement and the largest. It had to be large. Obasi and Ruka had a large family. Four sets of twins. The eldest were sixteen years old. The youngest were just under five.
My arrival was not quiet, though it was already late at night. First Alwyn and Reuel stumbled out of their little nests and yanked on my feathers. Then the two older boys, Basav and Godric, tore through the sky and plummeted down, screeching out their greetings. By that time, sedate Kali and demure Nigellus had appeared and disappeared. Eira came to pry her brother off me. Pire said a quick ‘hello’ and then went to fetch his parents.
“Suparna, couldn’t you have come in quietly?” Obasi called, swooping out of the tent.
“I intended to, Godfather, but your brood makes it impossible.”
“Alwyn? Reuel? Didn’t I put you to bed an hour ago?” Ruka scolded. “Up to your nests this instant. It’s long past your bedtime.”
“Mama!” the boys said in unison, “we don’t
wanna-”
“No arguments.”
So, the two littlest ones flew inside. Obasi sent Basav and Godric after them, for it was nearly their time to nest down as well. Then Ruka took my hand and led me inside.
“Suparna, what brings you here? And what have you done to your wing?” Kali asked.
“They’re right to say the forest is dangerous,” I began.
“You didn’t go down there!” Obasi cried.
“No, I’m not a complete fool.”
I went on to explain what had occurred. However, for no reason I could explain, I felt that I shouldn’t say anything about Iraja. I excluded his name from my story, simply calling him Lehl scum. And I felt like I should not say much about the belt, so I simply said I was delivering a message. Obasi bombarded me with questions and exclamations.
“Husband, it’s nearly midnight,” Ruka said. “Suparna has flown all the way from Leben wounded like she is. Must be nearly exhausted. Let’s all get to bed.”
 
ANOTHER HELLISH JOURNEY BROUGHT ABOUT BY MY OWN STUPIDITY
 
Obasi let me sleep in the next day. It was nearly midmorning when I woke up, and I knew to get home before dark I would have to leave quickly.
“You’re not going anywhere without breakfast!” Eira ordered, holding up her broom to block the doorway. “There’s pastry in the pan over the fire.”
“All right. All right.”
I went to help myself to the cinnamon mush Ruka made every morning since before I’d known her. It was cool by the time I ate, which only meant it was even later than I’d thought.
“Eira, I meant to ask you to cut my hair,” I said.
“Cut your- Did you hit your head when you fell?” she gasped. “Most every girl would kill for curls like yours, red and gold like sunshine!”
“They can have it. I don’t have the time to take care of it. Whenever I fly it gets all tangled and matted… It’s a hassle.”
“Suparna, you’ll regret it the moment I’m finished,” Eira sighed.
“I’ll regret it if I have to fly home and ask my brother.”
“I’ll regret this,” she sighed, but picked up a knife. “How short?”
“Godric’s length would do.”
“I’ll cut it to your chin,” she sighed, “but I can’t imagine doing anything more blasphemous than that.”
Red curls began falling into my lap. Eira grabbed handful after handful, chopping it all off. I felt lighter without it, an unexpected feeling. I had never cut my hair in my life.
“Oh, good, she’s still here.”
Pire bounded into the room. His golden wings were covered in dust and cobwebs, but the young man didn’t seem to care.
“What have you been up to?” Nigellus asked, following his older brother slowly.
“You remember when Zephir came to live with us, right?” Pire asked. “Well, he left in such a hurry, some of his friends didn’t get to say goodbye. I’d forgotten, but one gave me a letter to pass on. You’ll give this to him, right, Suparna?”
“Of course,” I said slowly, taking the thin, folded paper and slipping it into a pocket on the inside of my shirt.
“Suparna! I thought you left this morning,” Ruka exclaimed, dragging Alwyn into the tent behind her. “Get going or you’ll be flying in the dark! Eira, clean Alwyn’s knee, would you? He fell on the rocks.”
“Pire was just handing off some of Zephir’s things,” I explained.
Ruka let her youngest child go and slipped her arm through mine. We walked out of the tent and began a slow decent down the mountain.
“How is Zephir?” she asked as we went. “Out of trouble, I hope?”
“He’s not about to be shorn like last time, Ruka, if that’s what you are asking. But Zephir is Zephir,” I answered.
“He can come here again,” she offered. “Obasi won’t mind.”
“Obasi was about to throw him out,” I laughed. “Thank you, but he wasn’t in trouble when I left. Besides, I can’t force him to go anywhere.”
“Perhaps Obasi should go-”
“Let me worry about my brother, Ruka,” I said softly. “You have enough children to agonize over.”
I threw my wings open and dove down off the cliff ledge. I pulled up again before growing too close to the ground, screaming with the thrill of flight.
“Say goodbye to Obasi for me,” I called, leveling out.
“I will!”
I flew instinctively and ended up over the forest without even thinking of it. The cliffs were nearly out of sight by the time I truly noticed. There seemed no point in turning back. Besides, I desperately wanted to be home again. The talk of Zephir scared me. What trouble could he have gotten into? I’d been gone nearly a week. Anything number of things could have begun in that time. I needed to be home. I needed to feel the cliffs of Kaleena firmly beneath my feet. I needed to see that there was no mob outside my home screaming for Zep’s blood. My wings couldn’t move any faster, though, no matter how much I wanted them to.
I was still over the forest when the sun began to set.
Damn it.
 It’s not that I couldn’t see well enough at night, it’s just that I could see so much more in the sunlight. The temperature was dropping rapidly. I still had the coat, which was a bit of luck. I’d almost left it with Pire. I dropped a couple dozen feet, sinking into the warmer air. But it didn’t help, not for long. I sank again. Once more just as the sky turned a shocking orange so bright, it hurt to look at.
This was normally the point where I’d tell myself to suck it up. I’d been colder. I’d flown through worse. But I was abnormally anxious. The setting sun cast weird shadows of the forest canopy, and some tree leaves cast a blinding glare.
I was coaxing myself toward the cooler, higher air when I caught something huge out of the corner of my eye. I spun around just as searing pain rippled to life at the base of my right wing. Then the thing hit, and everything went black.


© Copyright 2017 Eisold. All rights reserved.

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