Gravity held no power over Zashiel as she flew above the grassy field, her bright yellow wings marking her like a beacon in the night sky. She stretched them out behind her as far as she could, savoring the feeling of the air passing between her feathers. Her sharp eyes scanned the field below her, taking in every detail as she soared over it, just like she had been trained to do.
"Where are you?" she asked in a low voice. "You can't hide from me forever."
The moment she asked, she spotted her target. A dull green light lit up the field, halfway buried underneath the tall grass, as if the plants themselves had begun to glow. With a grunt of satisfaction, she angled her wings downward and allowed gravity to take hold of her again.
Zashiel dove out of the moonlit sky as gracefully as an eagle, her wings leaving a yellow afterimage in her wake. As she fell, she reached behind her and drew her twin chakrams. The ring-shaped weapons had been forged specifically for her hands, and they fit in her grip like a glove. At the last moment, when she was only ten feet above the ground, she released herself from gravity's pull once again and arched out of the dive. At the lowest point of her arc, directly above the glowing green light, she lashed out with both chakrams, shredding the grass and sending it flying to her left and right. The green light leaped out of the brush and sped off into the night, zigzagging erratically.
Zashiel cursed under her breath and took off after it. She had been too slow, and now the ball of light had managed to gain distance on her. It was fast, and she had to flap her wings as hard as she could just to keep it in sight. It bobbed and weaved with a mind of its own, and every time she began to close in on it, it would make an abrupt U-turn and leave her behind again.
Frustration began to cloud Zashiel's thoughts, but she forced it to the back of her mind. She needed a clear head. Anger would only lead to rash actions, which would set her back even further. But the longer she chased the ball of light, the more obvious it became: she would never be able to catch it. She needed to think of something else.
Gripping her chakrams tightly in both hands, she hurled herself at the light, and once again began to catch up to it. Just as she'd planned, it suddenly changed direction and flew the other way. Zashiel whipped herself upright, her eyes never once losing sight of her quarry, and threw a chakram at it. It missed by a great distance, as she had known it would, but it came closer to the light than she ever had. Just as she predicted, the ball sensed the chakram and changed direction yet again, coming now back in her direction but still angled away from her. She extended her empty hand and anchored herself to the chakram that was still spinning off into the night, instantly drawing it back to her. With the other hand, she threw the second chakram. Reflecting the moonlight off its blade, it sped past the ball of light, passing less than a foot in front of it. Again, the light changed direction, just as the first chakram returned to her hand. She did this several times, throwing one weapon while pulling the other back to her, each time luring the ball of light closer to her. Finally, it came within reach, and her hands shot out to grab it.
"No!" she shouted when it shot straight away from her yet again. Struggling to think clearly in her anger, she flung both of her chakrams after it. They flew in a straight line, side by side, and easily overtook the ball of light. Zashiel anchored herself to both of them, but this time she reversed it. The chakram she had thrown with her left hand was drawn to her right, and right chakram flew to her left hand. The sudden change in direction cause them to collide with each other, barely a hairsbreadth in front of the ball of light. The light halted, and shot back the way it had come— straight into Zashiel's hands.
"Got you!" she shouted in triumph as she clutched it to her chest to keep it from getting away. Once she had a good grip on it, she transferred it to one hand and extended the other to draw her chakrams back. After fastening the weapons onto the loops on the back of her jacket, she allowed gravity to pull her gently to the ground.
"Eight minutes," a familiar voice congratulated her, and she looked up to see another Sorakine land by her side. He was a few inches taller than her, and his arms were rippled with muscle underneath his thick white jacket. She hastily pulled down her hood, letting her long golden hair spill down behind her back.
"Thank you, Sir Miron," she said. She couldn't help but notice how sweaty she had gotten in the reflective visor in front of his eyes, and grimaced.
Her mentor smiled, his neatly trimmed beard framing the underside of his face perfectly, before taking his own hood off as well. His hair was the same color as hers, but was cut so short that it didn't even hang down to his ears. He held out his hand, and Zashiel handed the ball of light to him.
"Eight minutes is not a bad time to catch a dodger," he said, passing the ball from one hand to the other. "But Vintor caught it in six the other day."
The surprise must have been evident on her face, because Miron chuckled and held the dodger up tauntingly. Six minutes? How on Fissura…
"I'm not kidding," he said. "Six minutes." His eyes went from her, to the dodger, then back to her again. "And if I know you, then you're not going to go home tonight until you beat that time."
In answer, Zashiel replaced her hood, the dark night suddenly becoming even darker behind her visor. Miron chuckled again. After ten years of training her, he knew exactly how to goad her into trying harder.
"That's my girl." He threw the dodger into the air, letting it speed away. "Go get it!"
Zashiel spread her wings and took the sky once more. Before she had flown ten feet, though, the black night sky suddenly turned a bright, dazzling green. It was the same shade of green as the dodger, causing her to instantly lose sight of the glowing ball. Then, before she could register what was happening, she was jerked off course. First to her left, then back to her right, then even further upwards, she found herself flying as erratically as the dodger itself— and she wasn't able to stop herself. She let out a scream when gravity suddenly pulled her sharply back toward the ground. The grassy field came shooting up towards her, and no matter how hard she flapped her wings, she couldn't slow her descent.
"I've got you!" Miron's voice suddenly shouted into her ear, and she felt his strong arms wrap around her. The powerful muscles in his wings beat against the unnaturally strong pull of gravity, but even he wasn't able to slow them down by much. Both of them slammed hard onto the ground below, but Miron's efforts kept the impact from being fatal. For a few seconds they both laid in the grass as gravity continued to pull at them, weighing them down so that they couldn't move.
"What's going on?" Zashiel asked in fright, Miron's arms still wrapped protectively around her.
"I don't know, but we need to get out of here," he answered. He was trying to sound calm, but Zashiel could still hear the fear in his voice. She'd never heard of anything like this happening before, and she guessed that Miron hadn't either.
They both struggled to open their wings, but they were completely immobilized. Then there came another green flash, and they were suddenly rolling and sliding across the field, the sticks and stones scraping at them underneath the grass.
"Zashiel!" Miron was shouting, though she could barely hear him over her heart pounding in her ears. "You have to get away! You have to fly!"
It was useless, though. She couldn't have flown right then if she'd wanted to. Gravity, that which had always been hers to command, for any Sorakine to command, was suddenly beyond her control. She could tell Miron was doing no better, or else he would have stopped them.
And then they both shot into the air. For a second, Zashiel thought that Miron had finally managed to get his gravity under control and was flying them to safety, but then she realized that they were spinning and flipping too much for that to be the case. Higher and higher they climbed, until they came to a sudden stop. The halt was so jarring that it knocked the wind out of Zashiel's lungs, and she hung there in midair hacking and coughing, Miron's arms the only thing keeping them together. Any other time, their closeness would have had her blushing until she was sure her face would pop, but now she was just glad that she wasn't alone up in the sky.
The pause only lasted a few seconds before another bright green flash lit up the night, and they were sent zigzagging through the air again.
"Zashiel!" Miron shouted again, and this time there was no disguising the terror in his voice. "Fly! Now!"
"I can't!" she screamed back.
As soon as she said that, their path took a sudden curve downwards. Fissura raced up to meet them, spinning chaotically as gravity pulled them to their doom.
"Hold on!" Miron commanded her, and she suddenly felt herself be flipped over. All she could see then was Miron's white jacket, stained brown with dirt, as he pressed her face into it.
They hit the ground with enough force to make a crater, sending dirt, stones, and grass flying everywhere. The landing rattled Zashiel's bones, and she was convinced her teeth were going to come flying out of her mouth. Fortunately, Miron's body absorbed a lot of the impact since he hit the ground first, and she landed on top of him. That still didn't stop her from flying free of his grip and skidding a few feet away.
And then, just like that, gravity went back to normal. The strange green tint disappeared from the sky, and the moon shined its pale white light on the field once again. Zashiel lay where she was for a few minutes, her head throbbing painfully. Her stomach convulsed inside of her, and she realized that she probably had a concussion. Darkness crept in at the edges of her vision, and she was tempted to surrender herself to the tranquility of unconsciousness, but one thought brought her back to reality:
On shaky limbs, she managed to get back to her feet. The world danced around her, as if she was still being thrown around in the sky, but she forced herself to stand steady. The crater she and Miron had made was only ten feet away, but it felt like she had walked a mile by the time she came to the edge. She collapsed, breathing heavily, barely able to keep herself from falling into the hole. When she looked inside, her throat constricted.
Miron was lying at the bottom, but one glance told her that there was no way he was still alive. His neck was bent at such an unnatural angle that it left no room for doubt. His eyes were still wide open, looking at the starry night sky without actually seeing it. His wings were splayed out behind him, their bright yellow light already dimming.
"No," she whispered, her mind reeling with shock. Suddenly, all her pain seemed meaningless. Sir Miron was… no, he couldn't be!
Again, she forced herself to her feet, but her legs gave out immediately. She tumbled down into the hole, rolling until she collided with her mentor's body. She reached up and put her hand on it. It was still warm…
"This isn't happening," she whispered, tears stinging her eyes. "You can't be dead. What am I going to tell the others?"
Her mentor for the last ten years had died protecting her— but from what? From gravity? From the very thing Sorakines were born to control? What kind of Sorakine was she that she had to be saved from gravity?
She shook her head vigorously, ridding it of those thoughts. Miron hadn't been able to control himself either. If a fully trained and experienced warrior hadn't been able to fly in those conditions, then surely they couldn't expect…
"No, no!" she shouted at herself. How could she think of herself at a time like this? She had to focus on the situation at hand. She needed to figure out how to get word to Hashira.
Another wave of dizziness came over her, and her strength gave out. She collapsed on top of Miron's body, her face pressed against his cheek, and darkness swam in front of her eyes. Out in the distance, she thought she saw another glimmer of green.
Adrenaline shot through her veins at the thought of gravity being thrown out of order again, and her eyes sprang open. But it wasn't the moon or the stars that were green this time, it was a person. He was so far away that she could barely see him, but he was coming closer. After a few seconds, she was able to make out some details about him. He was tall, but he must have been strong because he walked easily despite the suit of armor he was wearing. The armor was polished onyx, but had glowing green veins crisscrossing his entire body. They were the same shade of green as the sky had been. In his right hand, he held a long spear. He lifted it up and set it down with every step, like a walking staff, and blue sparks jumped from the tip every time the butt touched the ground.
Dread filled Zashiel's gut as he approached. She struggled to make out the man's face, but it was covered by a helmet, and a black visor shielded his eyes. He paused at the edge of the crater, looking down at her, and for a moment she dared to hope that he had come to help. It passed, though, when she looked again at the green lines on his armor. The exact same shade of green. That couldn't just be a coincidence.
As if to confirm her suspicions, the man suddenly raised his spear. The tip crackled with blue energy as he drew it back, pointing it directly at her. Every part of her body hurt, and her head swam, but the adrenaline from before was still giving her energy. With a cry of pain, Zashiel extended her wings and forced gravity to release her. She flapped, tears running down her cheeks, and shot out of the crater just in time to dodge the spear. It grazed her heel, and her body stiffened as a surge of the blue energy surged through her. She almost fell back to the ground, which would have doomed her for sure, but she flapped her wings again, carrying her high into the air, beyond the reach of the glowing man's spear. She chanced a glance down, and saw him looking up at her, his body rigid with anger.
Sir Miron was still in the crater, but she made herself forget about him. There was nothing she could do. Pain racked her body, threatening to make her lose focus and come crashing down again, but she ignored it. She had to get back to Hashira. She had to tell somebody. She had to survive.
The glow of the man's strange armor faded gradually as she left the field behind. Her wings ached, and pain lanced through her body with every flap. She wouldn't be able to keep this up for long. Ten minutes later, when she had managed to put at least twenty miles between herself and the spearman, her strength gave out. It was all she could do just to bring herself back to the ground gently, but the moment she touched down darkness invaded her vision. She took a couple weak, ragged breaths, and then closed her eyes.
The last thing she saw before succumbing to the peaceful, painless sleep of unconsciousness was Miron— the mentor she had left behind.
NEXT TIME: That's Zashiel, one of our main characters. Be here next week, on the 14th, to meet our hero, Toke Gnasher. Thanks for reading, please let me know what you think in the comments!