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Flight Over the Flatlands

It was a warm Midsummer’s Day in Scotland. The sun was at its zenith as I was enjoying my favorite past-time. The sky was perfectly blue with light white streaks in the east. As I looked below me I saw a herd of sheep reacting nervously to my low flight. Their shepherd was struggling to keep them in order.

I felt the cold breeze whipping my un-blinking eyes. I heard a noise to my right, but when I looked all I could see was the twenty meters of taut membrane keeping me aloft. I heard the sound again, this time from slightly above me; I looked up and saw a goose keeping pace with me, safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t waste time with such small prey.

Two more geese joined me, honking at the first and flying near my head, taking care not to fly too close to my horns.

Then I remembered why I was down in this valley. I banked right over a field of wheat, and the farmer who owned the field ran cussing into his small silo.

The geese faltered but changed their course to match mine.

Within minutes I was where I needed to be: A small tent with a single lantern sitting unlit near the door.

I landed softly in front of the door—the geese landed nearby, starting a conversation of honking among themselves. I folded my wings tightly to my back and ducked as I crawled halfway inside the tent, greeting the merchant within in his native tongue.

“What can I do for you today?” The man asked with the heaviest accent I had heard in a long time. He seemed to disregard my appearance, which had, on several occasions, caused humans such as himself to run away or simply faint.

“I need a sheep,” I said, never making eye contact with the vile human. My kind rarely even spoke to these disgusting-smelling, rarely-bathing creatures.

“Five gold pieces,” the man said, demonstrating the other reason my kind hated them so: Greed. I retrieved a cowhide pouch from between two of my scales. I handed the man five of the many pieces contained within.

“Take your pick,” he said, tossing my gold into a sack hung on one of the tent posts.

I egressed the human’s tent as quickly as I could without betraying how much I despised even having to look at him. I then corrected the unnatural curvature of my spine that his tent had caused. I took ten paces to the center of a field full of under-fed, shaggy-coated, barely-able-to-walk sheep.

I took my time choosing, for I needed as much meat as I could get. Finally, I chose one that seemed the shaggiest, though it seemed to be the plumpest, as well. Even prepared as the humans would, this sheep would yield a satisfactory amount of meat. I, however, would not prepare the meat as they do; none of this animal would go to waste.

I stood on my hind legs and grasped the creature in my fore limbs, accidentally breaking the skin in two places. I silently reprimanded myself: I had to make sure this beast would survive the trip.

I spread my wings and raised them high to catch the slight breeze flowing through the Flatlands. As my wings filled with air, they looked as a sailboat I had once seen that had been fortunate enough to catch a good wind. The membranes of my wings stretched and became tight and I felt myself becoming lighter.

I was ten meters off the ground and I flapped my wings hard, dropping for an instant, but as I thrust my wings downward I was sent twenty meters up. I kept thrusting my wings until I had reached the Upper Winds where I could glide easily.

The geese were soon flying with me once again, honking at my awkward load, which had long since passed out from fear.

I turned northward toward the Highlands. As I got closer to my home, and the home of many more of my kind, the geese fell behind, knowing instinctively that the young ones here would playfully kill them, or hunt them for practice.

I spotted ahead a peak higher than all the rest, and my speed increased involuntarily at the sight of my home.

Soon I landed on the top, near a round, stone door. There were two others of my kind, though slightly smaller in stature, guarding the doorway on either side. As I approached, they both bowed so deeply that their chins were in the dirt.

I put the sheep carefully in my mouth, and placed my hand on the back of the one on the right. He raised his head to meet my eyes.

“Perhaps you two should go do some protection where it is actually needed,” I said, slightly muffled due to the sheep.

They nodded and I watched as they flew off in the direction of the caves where the hatchery was.

I entered my home and my eyes instantly adjusted to the darkness. Now I could see, on the far side of my lair, my mate, sleeping near three, healthy-looking eggs.

As I watched, the one nearest to her gave a slight shake. She immediately raised her head to look at the egg; I could see the pale green glow in her eyes, the lack of which was the only way of knowing if my unblinking species was asleep or, God forbid, dead.

Her neck twisted and she was looking at me, she must’ve seen my shape silhouetted by the pale light from the entrance. As she began to see more clearly, the glow in her eyes growing stronger, her eyes locked onto my own blue orbs. She glanced down at the sheep I had set in front of me. It had regained consciousness but it had no energy to fight due to the thin air that is a result of dwelling this high above the world.

“You brought it,” she said, forming a smile with her sharp teeth.

“Of course I did,” I said, “I’d do anything for you, my Queen.”

“It’s not for me.” As she said that I saw another of the eggs move by its own accord. I realized instantly what she meant: The eggs were going to hatch before this day was done, and somehow she had known before any kind of sign was given.

Without any prompting, I pushed the sheep over nearer to the eggs. The sheep stumbled on its newly-regained balance.

One of the eggs cracked, then another. The first one cracked again, revealing the dark interior. The view within was brief; the hole was filled with a conical piece of bone I knew to be the Firsthorn—the horn a hatchling grows while inside the egg to help it escape. The Firsthorn eventually disappears, and the other, more adult horns grow in. One more blow and the first hatchling was free and I could see his eyes glowing an intense red.

The second egg then developed a hole large enough for the Firsthorn to be seen. It took two more blows than the first hatchling, but she got free nonetheless. Her eyes were glowing a deep purple.

My new hatchlings and my mate looked at the third egg expectantly, which, I realized, had not so much as shuddered while its siblings broke free from their eggs.

After five minutes, during which the first two hatchlings had dried off from the fluids within their eggs, we began to lose hope that the third egg had survived. Then the egg gave a sudden jolt. It didn’t vibrate or move, and it never cracked. It simply exploded, and a rather large hatchling burst forth, its immature wings spread wide. Its eyes shone with a brilliance that filled the entire cave with a pale blue light.

He instantly spotted the gift that I had brought him, and pounced on it, not showing the fatigue that his brother and sister were exhibiting.

The animal died without making a sound. The new hatchling left the slain animal and nudged his siblings toward it. They consumed as much as they could without so much as a grateful glance toward their generous brother.

When they were filled with as much meat as they could hold, the blue-eyed one stepped forward and ate until he was no longer hungry—not until he was full. He then nudged his mother in the direction of the remainder of the beast and, although he wasn’t strong enough to move her, she moved in to eat the remnants. She felt stronger than she had in these last three months, always taking care of the eggs and not making time to go and hunt her own food.

She smiled at me and I smiled back.

“He’s going to make a great king some day,” I said.

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