Fly, Part 2 of 2

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Mariah paced her bedroom, ever aware of keeping her footsteps quiet. She was down to her shift. In her nervousness, her wings had kept twitching, threatening to rip through their bindings and her dress as well, so she had locked her door and stripped down. Her mother would forgive her that more than she would a ripped dress as long as she remained hidden.

The scene replayed over and over in her mind—every action from the second her father had walked into the smithy—but she didn't see a way they could have prevented it unless she had been the one working the sword. His bad shoulder had apparently seized up as he brought the hammer down, and the molten sword had slammed into his leg before bouncing onto the floor, where it could do no further harm. That one moment on his leg had been enough.

Her father had been injured at the forge before. Even she had a multitude of small scars from flying sparks. But nothing could compare to this. How could a person go on working if their flesh was burned away to the bone? How could he avoid infection?

Garrett was with her father now. Mariah prayed silently that he would be able to save him.

She paused in her pacing and stretched her wings, their black tips touching the walls of her small room. She let their complexity distract her. They were long and nearly straight when extended like this. The feathers were silvery on the bottom like her hair and black on the top and around the edges. She shook her head, again amazed that someone like her, Ceo San, could have come from her mother and father. Ceo San supposedly had the ability to become animals like the Althamir, the ancient, mythical gods of Whitelea.

Those gods, if they existed, had a mysterious sense of humor. Why give wings to a blacksmith's daughter? She had heard that there were others similarly cursed, but she had never met one. Instead, she had spent her whole life hiding. After she was born, her parents had told neighbors that she had a deformity of the back. It had been excuse enough to keep her in the house as a baby and a toddler and to explain the lump under her clothing as she grew. Her eyes still filled with tears, she stifled a giggle, remembering her father recount tales of how hard it had been to keep her on the floor because once she had learned to walk, she had also learned to fly.

At his insistence, she had been one of the few Ceo San in Varidian to be raised at home. As she understood it, in the last twenty years, most children like her were sent to be raised in Glenley, to be put into service to the kingdom as soon as they were old enough. His Majesty, King Rothgar, had strongly encouraged this practice since he had taken the throne. Less than a year ago, he had declared it law. All Ceo San, whatever their age, were to be sent to the capital city to be trained to serve in the king's army. Those who sent their children voluntarily received a hefty reward from the royal treasury. Those who did not risked imprisonment.

Her father had never liked Rothgar. Nor had he agreed that the king should be able to "kidnap" the kingdom's children to serve in his never-ending quest for world domination. Mariah had heard Magnus speak of it so many times, had watched her mother smile and nod whenever he went on one of his rants—always within their walls, of course.

"Mariah, open this door right now. Garrett is gone."

She snapped her wings closed before unlocking the door and pulling it open.

"Yes? Is Father okay?" She looked down at Ashanya. Her face was pinched, and her eyes were red. "Is he ...?"

"He is alive. He's restin', but he needs a tincture, one that Garrett can't make. I need you to travel to Glenley to get it."

"Glenley?" Mariah's mouth dropped open of its own accord. She had never been beyond the outer limits of Eaglespire.

Ashanya handed her a sealed scroll and another piece of paper, this one with a hand-drawn map and directions to a shop on the outskirts of the capital. "Take this letter, and the alchemist will know what ya need."

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