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Flash Fiction: Feather Spent

This story started with Feather-Blessed, and continued with Feather Dreams.

The feather spreads its magic wide
And spends its substance
A scant nub returns to the Record Book
To write, “Grace Stella” in two colors
Perplexing the Aerie Keeper

Grace felt huge, stretched wide and strange, in the wonderful, colorful cloud of magic. The sparks tingled and tickled, then itched. She felt her mind reaching for—for something, as if she’d seen a movie trailer, a wonderful movie trailer, with the promise that the movie would start momentarily. But then the lights come on, and the ushers gesture toward the exit door.

The magic slowly cleared. In front of her was a gold dragon, whose scales brightened to orange, with a long, crimson crown and ruff. The dragon’s scales were almost painfully bright, dazzling her eyes and leaving rainbow after-images.

Curious, she looked down at herself. She had iridescent white scales, with pink, yellow and rose highlights. Her own ruff and crown were shorter, pale rose and magenta in patterns that mimicked her cornrows. “It worked!” Her voice was not much changed, though she thought it was prettier.

The dragon in front of her was blinking; her green eyes grown huge, and looking dark inside all that flashy gold. “You’re beautiful, Grace!” Stella’s voice was prettier too.

“So are you.”

“I—I’m glad you let me watch you change.” Stella hung her head, and huge tears started to fall from her eyes, turning her gold scales bronze.

Grace lifted a huge, pale hand—foreleg?—and brushed the tears away. “Why are you crying?” On her scales, the tears sparkled with rainbow highlights.

“I’m—I’m so happy for you, but—” she sniffed. “I’ll miss you when you fly away.”

“Stella, why would I fly away from you?” Grace reached to gather more tears, certain that she could turn them to jewels, if she could just remember how.

“You have to fly away! A dragon can’t stick around here.”

“Exactly. You have to come with me.”

“I can’t come with you.” Stella closed her eyes. “Humans can’t follow you to the New Home. The book was very clear about that.”

Grace tilted her head, “Have you looked at yourself?”

“Have I what?” Stella’s green eyes opened, and she bent her long neck to look down. Her eyes suddenly had yellow pinwheel highlights. “I—what happened?”

“You changed too!”

“I . . . see that. But—how?”

Grace had to look away from Stella’s eyes, the pinwheel effect was making her dizzy. “When I put the quill into my hand, I pushed it through so it went into both of us at the same time.” She peeked at her friend’s face.

The yellow stopped spinning and jumped into the air, like tiny exclamation points. “You—Grace Marie, you always were sneaky. I—I don’t know what to say.”

“Thank you?”

“I—thank you. Of course, thank you.” Then Stella got a mischievous grin on her face, and she held her forearm out against Grace’s shoulder. “This is going to be really weird.”

“Oh, what a wonderful thank-you!”

“I mean—my skin is darker than yours now!”

“Um.” Race had never been an issue between them. Then Stella laughed, a sound like windchimes. “Oh, Grace, I’m—“ she sniffed again. “I’m so happy!”

Grace stepped forward to rub her shoulder against Stella’s, and the bridge groaned under them, and once again she twined her long neck around her friend.

When Stella finally stopped sniffing, Grace said, “I had a thought.”

“Oh? What?”

“We’re kind of like blood-sisters now.”

Stella’s eyes shed sparkly exclamation points again, this time with gold spirals. “Magic sisters! Yes!”

Then Grace had another thought. “Hey—we probably shouldn’t stick around here much longer. The book says the feather-trail fades.”

“The feather-trail, oh, of course. But where is it?”

The girls looked around. The book described the feather-trail as a broad sparkly swath through the sky, like a magic road to lead them to their New Home, but twist their necks as they would, there was no such thing, just a tiny hint of shininess heading toward the sunset, hardly distinguishable from the sun sparkling on the water.

Grace noticed the sun was nearly touching the horizon, and frowned. “How’d it get so late?”

“I guess magic takes time to work.” Stella looked toward the sunset. “Look—that bit of shimmer there has got to be it—but why is it so faint?”

“Maybe it’s brighter up high. Come on, let’s fly!” Grace grinned.

Stella grinned back. “You go first, I’ll follow. It was your feather.”

Grace wanted to fly side-by-side, but she was becoming afraid that they’d lose their guide if they didn’t hurry. “All right—but don’t dawdle!”

“As if!”

Grace leapt into the air, then crashed back into the bridge, which shuddered and broke, falling noisily into the lake, and spilling both of them into the water. Grace blinked, feeling the water curling around her scales gently, reminding her of the feather curling against her skin. “What happened?”

“I don’t know. In the book, all you had to do was will yourself into the air, and you were flying. But when you leapt, your feet moved smoothly, but your wings just laid there on your back.”

Grace turned her head to look at her wings. They were long and beautiful, and were lying on her back awkwardly. She tried to flap them, and they moved randomly. She turned to Stella. “I want to see you move your wings.”

Stella tried, and got even less movement than Grace had.

Grace shook her head. “We look like a couple of baby birds. Why don’t we know how to fly?”

Stella walked along the shore a few feet, trying to move her wings together. “It’s my fault. There must not have been enough magic to change both of us, and teach us to fly, much less make our road home.”

“It’s not your fault. I’m the one who decided to stab both of us with the feather!” Grace waded further into the water and hugged Stella again. “And I’m not sorry.” The water splashed around her when she raised her voice, but she hardly noticed. “Though I don’t know what to do now.”

“We need to find a place to hide.” Stella quickly turned to practical thoughts when things went wrong. “And, like baby birds, we’ll have to learn how to fly on our own.”

“And the path?” Grace looked longingly westward, where the sun was touching the horizon now.

“I guess if we can’t find our own way there, we’ll be stuck here.”

They looked at each other soberly.

Then Grace leaned toward Stella, twining their necks together again. “I’d rather be with you. Even if we’re stuck hiding in the lake like the Loch Ness Monster. But don’t lose heart. If we can learn to fly, we can search. And dragons live a very long time—it says so in the book. Or we’ll find someone else who got a feather, and follow them.”

Stella nodded, like she was making a promise. “We’ll find our way Home. Someday.”

The Keeper of the Aerie waits
Wondering and worrying
Something has gone very wrong
Or perhaps, just perhaps, very right
Only time will tell.

Copyright © 2010 Deirdre M. Murphy

I was prevailed upon to continue the story.  Hungry Dragons

Please let me know if you enjoy the story!



( 19 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 6th, 2010 08:15 am (UTC)
I SO love this. Really, really.
Mar. 6th, 2010 06:23 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I'm glad.
Mar. 6th, 2010 12:42 pm (UTC)
Mar. 6th, 2010 06:24 pm (UTC)
I still want a fingerling dragon!

Thank you!
Mar. 6th, 2010 02:20 pm (UTC)
ALLLLL RIGHT! Great choice of what-to-do. I look forward to the next installment.
Mar. 6th, 2010 06:29 pm (UTC)
I haven't promised any next installments! I've already got one serial going.

Never mind that this one begs for a sequel. As did the last two. But I did already promise to finish Fireborn for the people who have sponsored that story.

Look--I'm really not guilty. Really. I was bribed to create this installment. :-D
Mar. 6th, 2010 02:32 pm (UTC)
absolutely wonderful
Mar. 6th, 2010 06:30 pm (UTC)
Thank you!

While I have this temp job, I don't have internet access during the day. But we might chat again on a weekend, or in the evening.
Mar. 6th, 2010 04:41 pm (UTC)
So, how many serials do you want to have running at the same time?
Mar. 6th, 2010 06:48 pm (UTC)
I figured that one serial was plenty, thank you. My creative-mind--and, very importantly, my audience, doesn't seem to agree.

I have other thoughts, but I need to feed Mamacat and go chip ice while it's melting and the sun is high. I think I'll do a post on the creative process to more fully answer your question later.

Thanks for asking it!
Mar. 6th, 2010 10:11 pm (UTC)
I see my attempt at teasing you for not writing an ending has fallen flat. :) I look forward to musings on the creative process, which sound much more interesting.
Mar. 6th, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
:-D You made me think! That's better than just being teased.
Jun. 7th, 2010 08:45 pm (UTC)
As many as you feel like writing, maybe? :)

I like these two young dragons.
Jun. 7th, 2010 11:29 pm (UTC)
There's this little issue of time. And wanting to get more stuff into paying markets. The tip jar is great when people use it, but that's only occasional. So I need to find time to not only write the stuff I publish here, and the stuff on tornworld.net, but also to submit the old fashioned way.

I'm glad you like them!
Mar. 6th, 2010 07:29 pm (UTC)
If you don't want to have to keep writing more of it, you have to make it end, not open up more intriguing possibilities. Silly writer. :-)

There are so many places this could go if they stay around and people start finding them. Or if they do learn to hide, learn to fly, and find their own way Home, that accomplishment could set them up for more. If they find their own way there, maybe that means they are free to leave and come back, where those who followed the feather trail would get lost if they left -- and that means they could do quests, to rescue people who left and got lost, to follow up on other missing feathers, or just to spread more magic to the poor dull world they left.
Mar. 6th, 2010 08:15 pm (UTC)
You might notice that I did not say I didn't want to write more of it. But with one serial promised to be finished, I'm not promising more about this one. (Unless I get paid for the work, anyway.)

I really didn't sit down and start writing with the thought that I'd be writing another serial, however. At least, not consciously.

You're so right about the possibilities. But it seemed like the most satisfying answer to the question of "what happens when someone tries to use one feather on two people". And that's more important to me than how long the story is.

Mar. 12th, 2010 03:34 am (UTC)
Delicious! Thank you.
Mar. 12th, 2010 03:38 am (UTC)
You're welcome. And I'm very glad you enjoyed it.
Oct. 6th, 2010 08:30 pm (UTC)
I really love this, it's beautiful.
( 19 comments — Leave a comment )


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