Chained to a rock and tossed off a cliff by her boyfriend, Aranya is executed for high treason against the Sylakian Empire. Falling a league into the deadly Cloudlands is not a fate she ever envisaged. But what if she did not die? What if she could spread her wings and fly?
Long ago, Dragons ruled the Island-World above the Cloudlands. But their Human slaves cast off the chains of Dragonish tyranny. Humans spread across the Islands in their flying Dragonships, colonising, building and warring. Now, the all-conquering Sylakians have defeated the last bastion of freedom–the Island-Kingdom of Immadia.
Evil has a new enemy. Aranya, Princess of Immadia. Dragon Shapeshifter.
Oyda quelled him with a fierce scowl of her own. “Right, my fledgling. Memorise these flowers.”
“I–um, what’s this got to do with–”
“Now, or it’s none of my honey biscuits for you later, you churlish wretch.”
Aranya studied the wildflowers. Five meadow daisies, a sprinkling of tiny blue-tinkles and three each of peonies, red anemones and tall bursts of fireflowers, made up her posy.
“Now, you will make a pass above the dell,” Oyda instructed. “While you fly, you will tell your Human brain to paint these flowers in every detail. I will question you afterward. And–do shut your yawning trap, petal. You’re catching flies.”
Grumbling to herself about how direct Nak and Oyda could be at times, Aranya thumped four-pawed over to the edge of the cliff, to her favourite outcropping, and threw herself into the air. This bit at least she had grasped. As usual, the moment she was aloft, her Human and Dragon brains went to war in her head. She immediately wallowed in the air. Every wing beat was a struggle.
Fine. She would paint flowers.
Aranya shot through the morning air. The deep golden sunbeams of a partial eclipse, the twin suns almost completely hidden behind Iridith’s bulk, seemed thick enough to swim in. She wheeled a thousand feet out and spun back on her wingtip for the required pass over the dell, where the figures of two tiny old people watched her intently.
She shaped meadow daisies. She concentrated on the finely bearded leaves of the fireflowers.
And she flew like a Dragon.
She raced across the sword-grass of the dell, almost brushing the blade-tips with her wingtips, before corkscrewing up above the forest bordering the heights and doubling back for a graceful landing that barely disturbed the still morning air.
Nak and Oyda smiled mysteriously at Aranya.
“Well? How was that?”
Nak wiped his eye. “Got a gnat stuck …”
“You old charlatan.” Oyda clipped the back of his head fondly. “That was Dragon, Aranya. Pure Dragon.”
Copyright © Marc Secchia
Marc is a South African-born author who lives and works in Ethiopia with his wife and 4 children, 2 dogs, a rabbit, and a variable number of marabou storks that roost on the acacia trees out back. On a good night there are also hyenas patrolling the back fence.
When he’s not writing about Africa Marc can be found travelling to remote locations. He thinks there’s nothing better than standing on a mountaintop wondering what lies over the next horizon.