Chapter 7     


"Y-yes, I think so. It would be suicide to descend these mountains in this weather, the children could tell you that. Besides, Roula is far too curious about you to just..." he laughed abruptly. "Give you supplies and send you off!"

Seraph grinned.  "Then I suppose I ought to help bring in game..."

"With injuries the likes of those?  If you ever fully heal, it will be in a year, not a week. You will need to find a way to earn your keep in the mean time. I don't know what foreign gods you worship, but mine punish laziness quite severely. Can you sew?"

"I'm afraid I never learned how, but I guarantee that I'll be on my feet in a week, and able to run by the next." She cocked her head at him like some large bird, an all too painful reminder of the bruises it had sustained in her fall.

"My gods have always been kind to me, although whether their kindness is bestowed upon the most deserving individual has yet to be seen. The wounds I sustained will be no more than scars when a month has passed, I swear it." It was Hrafin's turn to grin.

 "What strange deities you must worship. Ours are more wont to..."   He trailed off, turning his back to Seraph and squinting out through the gap he'd left between the hides draped over the door and the stone walls when coming in. He continued, " leave the plights of mortal folk in mortals' hands." Outside, awash in blazing sunlight, lay a magnificent scene: far to the left lay the network of foothills and valleys from which she came, ringed by mountains in the north and east. She was so high that the great city appeared to be a smudge of ash on the ocean of varying greens and whites surrounding it. Before her, neatly framing the valleys below, were two gargantuan spires of twisted rock, each arching into the heavens like the horns of some great demon. Prehaps they had been, in a forgotten age.

Beneath their monstrous shadows lay the village, snowbound fron the night's storm. Roula had made his dwelling some distance farther up the mountainside than the heart of the village, so Seraph was the first to catch a glimpse of the rising sun, rays setting alight the mountains around and above her as she rose in a blaze of triumph, having survived her flight around the earth. In the folklore of her race, Siltal, the sun, was a brilliant, enormous creature who was the source of all the world's light. During her journey, it was her task to bathe every corner of the earth in the warmth of her fire, while it was the duty of her mate to reflect her light like a mirror on the opposite end of the earth. While the scales of Siltal shone from the brilliant fire within her, Anassi's scales simply glowed with the light that hit them. So long as no foe came to challenge their esteemed places in the heavens, the world would suffer no more from the bitter cold and endless darkness in the very beginning.

As a youth, Seraph had known another, a mere chick whose scales were still clammy and porous even after months of intense sunlight, who shone from his fire, so intensely it burned the eyes. She never found out what happened to the poor creature, but she knew he had been in constant agony, so much so that he lived for the chance to spit gargantuan clouds of fire at those who challenged him, simply to release the painful heat. She supposed, detachedly, that he had been consumed by what was within himself.  An honorless, but still brave, way to perish. She suppressed a heavy sigh. She should never have taken this path. She had known full well of the dangers, death included, which could befall her, but she had expected this race to be...diffferent. More like her own. It had been an extraordinary task from the beginning. But she had assumed, all the way to her first real encounter with humans, that she would immediately be recognized as an intruder; someome to be treated with esteemed respect, and welcomed by whoever the leaders might be, rather than a woman who may well not have existed for all the good it did the many leaders of humanity. She had been poorly trained to perform this task, and now she was years too late to consider turning back.