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AS THE BIRD FLIES

by Marisa Barnes


All around her, Seanu could smell the scent of burning wood; or more precisely, the burning of her tribe's Aerie. She could see the humans running after her kinfolk as they tried to fly away, but none were able to take off with all the smoke in their eyes and their feathers smoldering. She heard the scream of her sister, Kalay, as she burned to death.

Seanu witnessed all of this as if from somewhere deep inside herself; she was not able to move or think. She couldn't even scream, though High Ones knew she wanted to. She wanted to scream her rage at the humans, to tell them that the Nightflyers never did anything to them. She wanted to let them know how much she hated them for doing this to her kin and ken.

Out of the smoke came two humans; one with a net, the other with a knife. All of the Nightflyers lay behind them; dead, smoldering husks of what used to be the people she had loved more than her own life.

As the humans came closer to her she tried to fly away, but her wings were so cold they were frozen, weighing down so hard on her back and shoulders that she wished they would fall off. She tried to run, but her legs were shaking so much she toppled over.

Seanu felt the net go over her body. When she looked up, she saw the human with the knife holding her left wing in a grip of steal. Oh High Ones! He's cutting my pinfeathers! Seanu screamed at last as she felt the knife start to criple her.......and finally woke up from the nightmare.

Ironically, it was a beautiful morning. From the mountain ledge she had spent the night on, she could see the mist rise up from the valley below her; which was the reason why she was so cold she was shivering in spasms. She didn't have time to take provisions with her while the humans slaughtered her home.

Seanu's eyes started to tear up at the memory. I am the last elf in the world, she thought woefully. Again, the death of her tribe played itself through her mind. She remembered the death face of every member of her tribe, especially her poor sister Kalay. As she burned to death, Kalay sent to her. *Run Tae, run!*

The only thing Seanu had left of her tribe was a small bloodstone necklace she always wore. It had been passed down from mother to daughter since the children of the high ones shape changed the Nightflyers tribe to have wings. It was a special stone, and she held it as she cried.

It was afternoon before Seanu thought of where she would go now that she was the last; as if she cared if she lived or not. As she pondered this, she took off into the air. It was no use staying in one place, the memories would come again and she would go mad. Her mind was pacified as she stared at the terrain below her speed by. She was flying over a plainsland, away from the mountain range and her Aaerie.

It was almost dusk when she saw the wide expanse of sand take over the world. How like the this barren place I have become, she thought. So wasted and full of emptiness, but I have yet to get the peacefulness I see there.

Seanu thought about this land that looked so much like the mental utopia she sought; barren of memory, yet overflowing with sunlight and tranquility. I'll go there, she told herself. Tomorrow, I'll start my life over again; without humans.

The next morning, she kept true to her word. In she flew with two dead birds in a skinned rabbit pouch slung over her shoulder and two more pouches of water on her belt. She flew low, so as not to miss anything this land might tell of it's secret.

For severlal days she flew in this way, hunting various birds as she flew and sparing her water. She kept flying everyday, dusk till dawn with few stops even when the sun was most hot on her tough, tolerating skin. She didn't know why she did this; it was if she was flying toward something, but she didn't know what.

Seanu studied the land as she traveled, but she learned nothing from it. She knew she was most likely going mad, thinking the land could tell her how to suppress her grief and lonliness. Her sanity grew even shorter every time she started to think, for the only thing she could think about was her slaughtered tribe.

She finally landed with a thud at dusk on her third day of travelling.

"Your a fool Tae! A snake teasing, sun staring fool! This wasteland is nothing! Kallay, where are you now that I need you!" Seanu doubled over and cried, her breath coming in violent sobs that wracked through her body. She felt her sanity finally leave her almost completely.

The only things in the world she had loved were destroyed, she was the last elf in a harsh world were humans ruled and hated her people. She had no home to go to and no assurance that she will ever have one again. The fortress of her hope and sanity was raided by an army of lonliness and grief so oppresive she gasped. Her walls had shattered.

As if the wheather was in sink with her emotions, a sandstorm appeared before her, only a mile away. Seanu looked at the mass of swirling, shardlike sand and saw a door of escape open and beckon to her.

With a mad cry of frustration, she lept up and flew straight for the heart of the storm. Her vision was clouded as sand swarmed up around her like bees to a hive. She flapped her wings to fly in further, but the wind took her over. She was thrown for away from the most dangerous part of the winds and sand. She landed against an outcropping of rocks and hit her head hard. As Seanu lost consiousness, she sent out a cry.

*Help me!* Then, all was blessedly black.

"...look! I found the elf we heard send that..."

"...never saw an elf with..."

"...eares are too short to be one of..."

Seanu couldn't open her eyes to see, but she could make out voices that weren't human and spoke her language.

"...was probably shaped..."

"...get Onsha..."

"...stay away from her, she might be..."

"...caught in that sandstorm..."

"...the healer should be able to..."

"...saw her arm twitch..."

Seanu finally opened her eyes. It was night time, but it was cursedly cold. She started shivering and tried to sit up, but she felt a hand on her shoulder gently push her down. When she was settled back down on her side again, a face appeared over her and a cloak was thrown over her. "You don't need to be afraid. My name is Seelee. This is my tribe, DesertWinds. Who are you, stranger?"

"My name is Seanu, and I'm from...." Seanu stopped dead and started shivering from utter fear. "I can't remember anything else!" She jumped up and immediatly fell to her knees as her vision clouded and a spasm of pain jolted her head. She reached back and felt a clott of blood in her hair from a head wound.

Seelee caught her as she nearly fainted, the shock of a wounded head and mind enveloping her. Suddenly, Seanu felt as light-hearted as a child. Everything will be fine now, she thought, and wondered why she felt that way at the same time. A calmness filled her where once a storm was. She felt that her flight was over and she had come home.