[Story] A Story a Week 4

[[ Prompt: A story about three siblings ]]

Sath’alor nudged the hawkstrider gently into motion again. It was their family’s, and wasn’t nearly as eager to work as it had been in its youth. The bird gave an indignant squawk of complaint as it raised its head and shook itself.

“I still don’t see why we have to walk while you ride,” Mierra remarked.

“A gentleman wouldn’t make us walk,” Isandri agreed.

His two younger sisters, both dressed in their fanciest robes, walked a short distance behind the hawkstrider, careful to avoid any stones or roots in the path. “Because,” Sath’alor said. “I’m the scout. I’m making sure the road is safe.” The girls exchanged a glance. “Besides,” he added, “this was your idea.”

To be more accurate, it was their mother who had suggested that Sath’alor escort his sisters to the summer festival, but they’d been the ones who wanted to go. Mother and Father were busy at this time of year, preparing pelts for the upcoming autumn and winter, when more people bought coats. He suspected there was another reason as well; there would be a lot of other young ladies in attendance, and Mother wanted him to meet some of them. As far as Sath’alor was concerned, he’d be happy never to speak to another young lady. He’d put in for a transfer to his new unit, voluntarily of course but everyone knew the actual reason, even somehow his nosy sisters. Sath’alor was convinced that there was some sort of ladies’ underground message system that informed them all of what was happening everywhere. As much as he might not want to admit it, this outing was a way to take his mind off of what had happened, at the very least. If nothing else, there would be good food there.

Isandri and Mierra had leaned closer together, their voices too low for him to hear clearly. They were probably discussing the secret girls’ information again. “What are you going to do first?” Sath’alor asked, hoping to change the subject back to the festival.

“I want to watch the dancers,” said Mierra. “They’re always so colorful.”

“And the booths,” Isandri added. “They sell the prettiest jewelry.”

Sath’alor nodded, shifting in the saddle as he turned to look forward along the road again. It was more of habit than anything, this aged hawkstrider couldn’t have carried him anywhere in a hurry even if it wanted to. And it was such a beautiful day, bright and sunny but not too hot, the forest growth fresh and new from a recent rain. What danger could there possibly be on a day like this?

Really, his sisters were old enough to have gone on their own, but Sath’alor admitted that he didn’t really mind it, as much as he claimed to. They were much younger than he was, so he’d never really had much opportunity to spend time with them. He’d been away at school, and then for his ranger training. He’d be much closer to home with his new unit, able to visit them more often. As they made their way along the shaded path, Sath’alor scanned the forest for any sign of movement or danger.

“You aren’t going to look at boys?” he asked.

Both girls giggled.

“No!” Isandri gasped.

“Well, maybe a little,” said Mierra.

“Good thing I’ll be there,” Sath’alor said. “To make sure you don’t.”

He thought they were too young to be looking at boys anyway, but they weren’t really. They only seemed that way because they were his younger sisters. Some girls their age were already engaged. Of course he could have been too, had things gone differently. Sath’alor didn’t want to think about that today though. He was determined to enjoy the festival.

“Looks like it might rain,” Sath’alor remarked, frowning slightly. A black cloud hung high over the horizon. Spring storms were unusual this late in the season, and it would be a shame if the weather ruined such a nice day.

“Oh, no!” cried Mierra.

“It had better not,” Isandri agreed.

Sath’alor slowed the hawkstrider to a halt, that he might get a better look at the sky. There was something strange about the cloud. Just in the few moments he’d been watching it, the shape had shifted, as if it wasn’t a cloud at all, but perhaps a flock of birds. It was difficult to tell from this distance, but they looked large. He couldn’t think of any birds that large in the forests. Not ones that could fly, at any rate. Sath’alor’s brows drew, and he shaded his eyes with a hand to try to get a better look. Whatever they were, they were coming closer, he was sure of it now.

The girls had noticed it now too; the dark cloud — or flock — had spread over more of the sky, thousands of wings now visible as the mass drew closer over the forest.

“What is that?” Mierra asked. Sath’alor could hear the fear in her voice.

He felt it too. Something was definitely not right. He did his best to sound calm and confident. “Come on,” he said, pulling the hawkstrider around with a sharp tug. “We need to get inside somewhere.”


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