|More from ByBray||Adventure||PG-13||Positive||Here|
|Whispers in the Wind (Inheritance)|
October 5th, 2013
"It was the strangest thing," Dad spoke between mouthfuls of rice he had fixed up for lunch, "it was a tree, but it was covered in faces!" His eyes widened and his mouth gaped open, rice spilling out to the ground. I had finished up my ration a while back, and was twiddling a few strands of grass on the cliff side. Dad had some training ideas that he didn't want to dirty the temple's architecture with; he called Appa awake earlier in the morning and forced him to fly us above the upside-down temple. The giant lug of fur mustn't have thought too highly of the idea, because he flew straight back to the temple immediately after our feet hit the earthen soil on the overhang and curled up and went to sleep. Dad was peeved, but I thought it was hilarious. Give the bison a break, no? He always helps us out, let him rest if he wants.
Dad must've noticed my attention span, or rather the lack thereof, and brought me back to full consciousness with a burst of air, spinning like a twister until is blasted my attention. My body jolted upright, like an exhausted schoolchild mid-dream as the teacher whips his wrist with a switch. "Do you ever listen?" Dad mocked, disappointed in my depleting interest in his tale. In my defense, I couldn't help it – everything always blended together, which ended with me checking out to collect my thoughts.
"No, it's not that." My knees cracked as I stood. I brushed the stray rice off of my pants and stretched, my backbone popping just enough that I felt the slight crackle of the fixed joints.
Dad sat up and folded the orange cloth sack he had carried our lunch in and tied it in a knot, standing up himself, his glider behind him. "I'm going to go check on Appa, feed him some lunch." He knelt down and tied the excess protruding cloth of the sac around the central beam of the glider, folding it outward and placing one hand on the handle. "At one o' clock, I want you right here. We'll pick back up then."
And just like that, he took off in a sprint towards the cliff edge–which was only around twenty feet away–sending the green blades into a flurry beneath his feet. He dove outward, throwing his trust to the wind, disappearing with a smooth pulsation of air. I held my breath. I didn't let it go until I saw him once more. The sharp contrast of his arrow against the dull colors of the pale stones and moss in the background was what gave me relief, to be honest. Maybe it wasn't even simply seeing the arrows, the symbols of mastery – but rather, knowing someone else had been here other than myself. It made me appear relieved, but deep inside, it twisted and made me think awful things. What if I can't? What if it never clicks? I'd just be a boy painted black with shame. Nothing more, nothing less.
My mind thumped and a sigh escaped my throat, almost as if reality came rushing back in. I still had a bit under half an hour to myself, and I felt like doing anything other than sitting motionless on a precipice. The grassy cliff seemed to sway under my moving feet. Compared to Republic City and Air Temple Island, this place was nature central, with flowers in abundance in every mass of shrubbery, and thickenings of trees within clear vision. Despite the beauty, my brain processed it as a blur, the dirt scattering in waves under my shoes. I wanted to stop them–to stop moving in general, but part of me... didn't? It was strange, eerie, and oddly calming. It felt as if I didn't have to control my feet, and the effort I saved was flowing throughout my body. I could hear my heart beat, my blood pulse. It was bizarre and enlightening at the same time; eventually, I gathered the effort to glance over my shoulder, and I could see the clearing where I had eaten lunch in the hazy distance. I twisted back around as my feet halted. Perhaps I stopped them after the subconscious march–or maybe whatever seemed to control them halted.
I glanced around, the echo of the breeze dancing across the leaves of trees as they twirled in response, a rustle-like noise created in the process. But within the rustle of the green shards, there was an abnormal noise... a screech, as if an aching tree branch was scraping against the rough bark of its neighbor. I looked into the dense maze of trees and the shadows they cast on each other, searching for something. My eyes read the scenery like a book, looking for something that didn't belong. There were trees with brown bark, trees with grey bark, and a white–wait, white? There were no white trees or greenery anywhere near, if I could remember what little of the surroundings I had cared to pay attention to. I locked onto the strange white entity–which I could see from my current standing. Something nipped at my mind when I observed it, something I couldn't really make out. The wind danced in my ears, whispers and echoes filling them. I slipped through the motionless trunks of the trees with dancing branches; the white block became an enlarging rectangle, and from there it developed an ornate blackish metal frame containing the whiteness. I could feel the noise in my head grow louder and louder; my feet picked up pace as I sprinted towards it, the blood in my veins pulsating quickly as I neared the object.
I stepped into the open clearing, as sunlight flooded in fully; the piercing voice in my head muted in an instant. Products of years of airbending training, Air Nomad architecture and engineering lied in my line of sight. It looked, at first glance, to be a field of giant wooden paddles, swaying in the wind as it carelessly collided with the metal and mahogany, sending the artifacts into spouts of creaks and lurches. The nearest paddle-like entity lurched under my grip, holding it between my fingers and palm, twisting it on its vertical hinge. It creaked, but miraculously, it flowed in the correct direction. As a matter of fact, all of them–which I fiddled with, seemed to be in working order. Each panel had an obvious nomadic influence, emblazoned with the air symbol, and the base platform had a list of archaic letters that I couldn't make out–that is, all but one: gates. I stepped onto the platform and walked through the spinning maze, giving a select few gates a thrusting twirl as I walked by. They made rustic noises and filled my ears, the sound strangely familiar, despite having never seen them. Had I heard them before? I felt so... at home, with them around me.
"What are these even for?" I mumbled under my breath. I worked my way into what I believed to be the center: a large engraving of the air symbol under my feet. The wind moved from a gentle murmur to a quiet roar. The gates began to spin, creaking in an eerie harmony. My clothes rippled, the gentle air soft on my skin. The wind was enticing as it graced my face, cooled my body, and touched my soul; it was an experience I couldn't bring to words if asked to describe in the moment. It was–just for a moment–a sense of wholly serenity. My body surged as the wind slowly died down, my heart yearning for it to return, to bathe me in its arms. The gates continued spinning for a short time from the now departed sudden gust. Just before the wind and gates around me ceased movement and the quiet returned, the deep green leaves on the trees caught my eye. Odd, to say the least–they weren't swaying in their normal wind-dance. I felt the strange essence that engulfed my being die with the halting wind as I made my way off of the platform.
As I passed the trees, a colorful object caught my eye, a royal blue butterfly, resting a foot or so away, on a lone branch. It felt natural, the way I reached for it, forgetting the fact that it was bound to flutter away, but I couldn't help but to smile when it flittered into the air, against the weak currents of the flowing wind.
I had barely made my way back to the clearing where I had eaten lunch, as Dad swooped in, the sun right where it should be at one o' clock. Before I walked back, I etched a circle into the ground with a stone near the opening entrance I took into the forest, seeing where to bring my father–he had to see this.
"Seems you barely made it," Dad jeered jokingly, landing with a spiral of air slowly flattening to the ground. My brow furrowed and arms crossed. "We'll see what he says after I show him the ... 'find'," I thought to myself.
He folded his glider, put his hand on the staff and jokingly leaned against it. "Come now, you have to be a little livelier than that!" he boomed, as a puff of air huffed out of my mouth and nose, as if a defiant response. He stood up straight again and slammed his right foot into the earthen soil, as I felt it rumble and crack beneath my own feet as well; a large mound of earth shot out of the ground, sending stray bits of soil every which way. He placed his glider on the earthen pile of dirt, topped with a grassy layer, and sat down. Before even giving him a chance to get comfortable, my main motive crossed my mind, as it came barreling out of my mouth like a train out of station.
"Dad, I need to show you something." He cocked his brow and cocked an even more critical tone too.
"And what is it, exactly?" Dad stood up, leaving his glider on his earthen mound. He walked over and stood in front of me. "Well? Spill it!" he said, trying his best to keep a straight face–which didn't hold, as he smiled and laughed. I couldn't just flat out tell him–partially in case I had pinned them the wrong name–so instead I turned back the way I had just came from and waved him on. "You'll have to see it for yourself."
Surprisingly, he didn't ask any questions and merely walked by my side. No questions or comments. Did he already know they were there, and he was giving me some twisted lead-on? My voice broke the silence.
"You're going to flip when you see this, you know."
"Oh, will I?" he asked, almost as if accepting my statement as a challenge. We continued walking, as I made small talk, asking about how Appa was, and how he planned on training me - before he knew about the gates, that is. It would be a definite upgrade from the pillars he erected in the "training clearing," or so he called it–if in fact he wanted to use them.
After a few minutes–which passed as if they were hours–we arrived at my... circle sketch. It actually looked more like an awkward oval-square now that I could see it from more of an aerial view. So I wasn't an artist, obviously. Regardless, my vision roamed the trees, and after a few seconds, I could see the whiteness of the gate. It was strange to think I had hoped it wasn't just a sun-bleached rock, and it turned out to be an ancestral treasure.
"Over here," I called out, as my father trailed me, stepping off of the cliff-side clearing and into the mass of trees. Luckily, the shadows were cast darker with the sun at the early afternoon position overhead, which made the whiteness in the sea of green far less noticeable. A strange feeling returned and nagged at my mind. Dad said nothing, and I only spoke four words, as the clearing in the trees was fast approaching.
"What do you think?" My feet stopping as I walked into the clearing, my father's stopping in accompany. There was something my father did, only a few times before, I recognized it as he realized what he was seeing. His eyes, his face, his smile all seemed to light up in a way that wasn't common–like the day of those months ago during our heart-to-heart. He seemed to melt at certain times, his natural demeanor of his daily duties vanishing, his inner-airbender flourishing in the moment.
"This– I–..." He seemed speechless, in a very positive way. "This brings back the memories, man!" He sprinted up to the gates giddily – so fast a trail of air sent the surrounding greenery into a flutter – his trademark smile plastered on his face. "I trained using this when I was younger," he said, blasting the gates with bursts of air stemming from his palms, sending them spinning like a drunkard after a long night at the bar.
"So," I thought, "that's how they're used."
"But more importantly," he turned directly to me, staring me in the eyes, "you can use them to train!"
I figured as much. Well... this should be interesting.
"Right, left, behind, forward."
My feet glided about, shifting my weight in the necessary direction. The field of gates spun as my father sent constant bursts of air in their direction, making it harder and harder to focus. Why did he have to make it faster? Honestly, I can barely do it when they're at a crawling speed. I could feel the waves of air dance across my face, making my eyes water and my clothes ripple. Breathe in, breathe out, slide to the left and—
My shoulder let loose a mass of pain, sending a jolting shock throughout my body, as I heard a sort of cracking noise. The halted wooden panel rejected my movement, sending me flying backwards into the still moving sea of spinning mahogany. I tried to breathe again to let out a gasp, but just as I opened my mouth, I was met with a face full of stolid, two-thousand year old antique planks. I heard a strange noise—a groan maybe? It came from my throat, gurgling at the bottom, almost becoming a saddening gnarl. I desperately tried to regain my footing to stop the painful game of human airball. One foot over the other, land then—
My body slammed into another spinning gate. My jaw cracked as the side of the panel crashed into my face, causing me to instantly clench my teeth, which only furthered the pain. Still, I stood, boundlessly spiraling in circles in every direction. My entire body burned. I could feel the bruises start to form already.
"Da—" I tried to croak, only to be met with a crashing force to the center of my forehead. I felt my feet lift off of the ground, and my body finally escape the twirling demons. My frame pounded the grassy, earthen terrain below my back. I bounced once, maybe even twice? I couldn't really tell. The aches began to flood in, as my blurry mind began to code the incoming nerve impulses into bodily understanding. A shadow peered over my head. Everything was so fuzzy, especially the giant arrow on his forehead. The sun made it look almost swerved. The clouds behind him were oftly fluffy. Almost like giant white mounds of fur.
He tried to tell me something, I think. He held his hand up in front of my face, fingers extended. Count them? Math didn't seem like a fun activity right now. He squinted his eyes as I arched my brow. I tried to focus on him, his arrow, anything; everything was revolving. He crouched down and put one arm under the crook in my knees, the other behind my shoulders.
I heard something pierce the air. It must've been fairly demeaning because I was met with a tough jostle from the man. Really, it wasn't my fault. It wasn't me, why did he care? My shoulder hurt like utter hell right now, yet I couldn't remember why. Something happened, no? Certainly, I was—another wail rang out as I was tossed over his shoulder, my body putty in his hands, cutting my thoughts mid-sentence. Whoever the hell it was needed to stop. My arms draped downwards towards the ground; a faint, blackish outline followed me. Was it him?
A pounding suddenly nailed my head, sending my eyes into a wide open gasp, yet my mouth didn't move. Neither did any part of my body, actually. I could feel it encroaching on me, biting, snarling at my flesh, probing my mind. Oh how bad I wanted to yell, to curse the voice making the awful noise! It fueled the pain, and yet there was nothing I could do! If he would put me down for just one second I'd find him and—
Something rang out in my head, as if it were a bell-like sound. My eyes flashed open staring at a familiar ceiling. I was propped up against a large pillar, "ECHO" engraved into the pale plaster stone, encrusted with dust and dirt.
"Dad?" I croaked. I tried to sit up further, to get a better view. I was quickly met with a hand on my chest, forcing me back into my original position. The light from the sun shining in from the opened chamber gates dilated my pupils, allowing me to see past the burning brightness. Dad's warm smile met my eyes, as he sat cross-legged directly across from me, back against the rising sun. "Wha—?" I began, trying to grab looks of my surroundings.
My father, in return, grabbed my attention. "I've never seen the air gates deal out a beating like that since—well, I've actually never seen anything like it." A beating? Me? My head began to beat like a drum, and I tasted bile in my throat. I reached up drifted my fingers across my jawline, wincing the instant my dry, dreary digits met the weakened dampened flesh. I cringed.
"Careful, Tenzin," he calmly soothed. It reminded me of when I was little, and Kya would launch frozen ice pellets at me–or rather, my face. Dad would always come to my side and carry me up to my room, only after reprimanding Kya, of course. It struck a comforting chime, too.
"What happened?" My entire body ached and creaked as I slowly moved, finding my temporary physical limitations. Dad eyed my movements like a hawk.
"Well, I'm honestly not too sure. You were going through the air gates, and then lost your footing, and then lost it again, and again, and—"
"I get it," I cut him off, laughing slightly. Even the smallest chuckle pained me. He on the other hand, soured his look even more than before. I tried to put my arms down to prop myself up, and he launched his arms to my side, clamping them down before I could even begin to move my palms to the ground.
"I mean it, Tenzin," Dad sharply muttered, "you got pretty roughed up." I glanced down at my abdomen for the first time since coming to and noticed a draping of bandages wrapped around me. My brain fired of a million questions at once. I tried to hold them back, but I let one slip.
"How long?" I asked urgently. Dad flashed me a perplexed look, them stared at me, as if recollecting something.
"Twenty-four hours." He said it plainly. Very bluntly too, in fact.
An entire day? From a little training? I looked at my bruised arms, covered in shades of purple, black, and blue. Maybe he wasn't exaggerating.
"But Dad," I began, trying to sit up in another failed attempt, only to be met by a glare. I let out a puff of air. "If I can't move how am I supposed to master this movement thing?" I remembered the day he taught me the shadow technique a few months back. This made that look extremely easy.
"When you're ready, we'll give it another go." He stood up, stretching all the while. "But," he emphasized, "You're staying put for now." He turned around and started towards the opened gates.
"And where are you going?" I asked prudently, as my mind still sent off questions in a rapid fire manner.
"To make some breakfast," he called over his shoulder. He kept walking. After a few more steps, he stopped in his tracks, spun around, and pointed a finger at my forehead. "And don't you think you are free to move about when I'm not here." The deepness echoed throughout the chamber. I looked back at him, cocked my brow, and he turned and hurried away. In the distance, the trees blew wildly in the wind; Dad picked his glider up which was propped on one of the parallel chamber gates, folded it open, and jumped out into the misty valley below. He vanished from sight.
Slowly, I reached over and grabbed my glider lying next to me. Other than the thin blanket my father salvaged from my half-eaten sleeping bag, the glider was the only thing near me. I used it as a crutch, propping myself up, slowly rising against the pillar behind me. I tried my best to disregard the stabbing pain that surfaced in intervals, until I was finally vertical. I took one step forward, followed by another, and created a pattern. The ache in my feet became the peak of the cycle, slowly resetting with each new step. I moved the glider along the ground as I shuffled forward, using it to support the majority of my weight.
And don't you think you are free to move about when I'm not here. Well, you aren't here to watch me, now are you? I kept moving my feet, passing between two opened chamber gates, heading towards the small open platform I saw my father fall—or fly, rather—off of a few minutes ago. As I reached the open air, the wind picked and waved my clothes downwind. It felt so... healing.
A broken smile surfaced on my bruised, bloody, beaten face.
Nothing was going to hold me back.
For the collective works of the author, go here.