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PART TWO: ICARA LIGHTFEATHER - Chapter One


I feel the tug of a chord once more at my belly button, and my umbilical is sliced.

“Hello there,” comes a voice from the woman holding me. “Where did you come from?” Is this my mother?

I sense another in the room with us, and through the bleariness of my newborn eyes see a man, young and handsome. He takes my tiny brown hand in his, leans over to kiss my head and a teardrop lands lightly on my face. Is this my father? He stands, and a flapping behind him draws my attention to two strong wings on his back.

I close my eyes, knowing I am loved.

When I open them again I am a young girl no older than five, surrounded by an enormous crowd in a massive coliseum of stone and sculpture. Winged figures float in the sky above us, backlit by the bronze sun. Dozens of silhouettes swoop and dance in acrobatic contortions, their shadows cast down to produce intricate designs and beautiful characters on the stone stage at the center of the arena. In this way a pageant unfolds before the audience. A legend, a fable.

I gasp as the shadow of a terrible wraith attacks that of our hero. Its claws bared, its fangs sharp. I cheer as the creature is defeated, smile widely as the hero rescues the girl from the underworld and they kiss. We applaud the performers as the sun sets.

I look up with delight at my father sitting beside me. He smiles, older and bearded now but somehow more handsome, and puts his hand on my shoulder. “Did you like it, Icara?” he asks.

“Oh, Daddy, I loved it!”

He hoists me onto his back and leaps into the air. With one heavy leathery whoosh after another we rise higher and higher, sailing away from the theatre. Below us a herd of large ensarens makes its way hoofed and antlered across the vast plain, pursued by hunters in flight with bowstrings drawn.

“I feel bad for them,” I say.

“For the hunters?” says my father. “Their families will eat well tonight.”

“No, for the ensarens. They must be so scared.”

“Mere animals, Glowbug. They feel nothing.”

The deep red sky soon melts into a dark blue, a pitch black, and slowly, far above us, the stars appear. I gaze up as we glide, transfixed by the endless sea of tiny holes pecked into the black blanket overhead. Little glimpses of the daylight on the other side.

“Daddy, how high can a person fly?”

“That depends on the person, sweetheart.”

“Has anyone ever flown to the stars?”

“In stories. But in real life? No, Glowbug, I don’t think so. Perhaps you’ll be the first.”

I throw my arms around him and fall asleep on his back as he flies us over meadow and rock, over river and woodland, down through the forest canopy of Ventaii, our township and capitol of Goaii Province, and into our home near the top of a huge tree.

That night I dream I too can fly, that my wings have grown in and that they are carrying me upward from my bedroom into the night. Higher, higher, into the sky and the blackness beyond, through a pinprick of light in the dark sheet wrapped about our world and to the other side. I see an endless ocean of starlight through which someone has carved a maze of black space. And in that sea I spot the tiniest of worlds. A small blue sphere to which I am drawn as though tethered by some invisible cord. It seems familiar to me. Have I dreamt of this place before?

I am grabbed from behind and my eyes open. I wake from my dream to find myself standing on the edge of the perimeter railing of our house, overlooking the forest floor far below. My mother stands behind me, holding tight to my waist and breathing hard. “Cara Lightfeather!” she says loudly. “What are you doing?”

I have no words. My heart gallops as I look down at what could have been my death.

“My child,” she says as she pulls me down off the railing and turns me to face her, “your wings are not yet strong enough! Promise me you won’t do this again!”

My father’s hand then alights upon her shoulder. “Sweetheart, Icara was walking in her sleep. She couldn’t have known what she was doing.”

My mother nods, then pulls me close, envelops me. And I, I can only stare wide-eyed over her arm, over the railing, at the immense drop below. My heart pounding, pounding into the night. I shut my eyes.

Next Chapter: PART THREE: MERYEM NURZHAN - Chapter One