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Ume’s Lament

Grieving, grieving for the loss of Goldwing, a sparrowhawk. Ume could feel nothing but an intense agony, a single tear rolled down her blood-streaked cheek where she had cradled him closely as his life had ebbed away. He was now a lifeless form laying limply on the ground in front of where she knelt, an arrow deep in his chest.

She had trained him from a fledgling and they had grown up together. They had shared the “Xaakra”, an intense spiritual bond formed between a human and animal and rare indeed for one as young as Ume.

Hungra stood motionless behind the shattered soul before him. Eventually, he placed a gentle hand upon Ume’s shoulder, however he knew he could never understand the pain she felt, he did not have the gift and could only imagine the torment which his daughter now felt.

Upon his touch, Ume collapsed into the dusty ground, neither in repulsion nor fear, but as if his hand had been the catalyst for some internal mechanism to click over within her.

To Hungra, it seemed she had fallen into a deep slumber. Instinctively he bent down to pick up his only child.

“Let her be Hungra,” cried an old woman as she appeared from a meager straw-roofed hut behind him. She edged closer to view the girl, her old bones seeming only barely able to carry her weight.

“The bird’s spirit is preparing to pass on,” she stated. “But first it must untwine its soul from the girl, and that will take some doing. Best leave her be,” she croaked knowingly.

Ume’s eyes flickered open, the pupils fully dilated, black disks in pools of blue. Her body stiffened momentarily in seizure and then, just as suddenly, relaxed. Her anguish-gripped face gave way becoming a visage of peace.

With a white flash in her mind, Ume could see the blue skies above, splattered with puffs of light fluffy clouds. She could feel the air rushing beneath her wings, tickling her belly and ruffling her feathers; her chattering tortured mind cut off, silenced by the pure, primitive thoughts of the bird as it soared higher, twisting this way and that, riding the rising currents of air.

“Free . . .” she thought to herself, “I want to fly forever . . .” Her mind drifted, allowing itself to be taken away from the pain into a kind of stasis.

They drifted freely through the clouds for what seemed an eternity, then surprisingly, Goldwing dropped out of the dense clouds. He sought the cover of the ragged grey coastal cliffs where he made his home and where the two had first met. Ume’s mind allowed her a slight smile as the cliffs came into view, remembering the moment when she had held, in the palm of her hand, the fledgling Goldwing.

The Sparrowhawk’s sharp eyes latched onto some movement on the cliff face and quickly swung towards it. Ume could make out the target of Goldwing’s interest now, it was a nest; in a particularly precarious position, and there were three small hatchlings chirping wildly.

They came in to land with a flurry of feathers and moved round the narrow ledge, which held the nest, dislodging stones as they went.

Ume sensed her companion’s concern for the hatchlings. Up here they were at the mercy of the elements as well as any predators that might be lurking, that was clear. And now they were without a mother.

Suddenly, she found thoughts coming into her mind. It was a voice that was unfamiliar to her but it had an aspect to it that she instantly recognised.

Take care of them . . . please the voice pleaded.

“G-g-goldwing . . .?” She stuttered.

Before she could think further everything vanished into a cloud of white.

They were soaring again, but now the sky was clear and blue as if where they had been had never existed.

After a time, Ume’s earthbound nature carried her gaze downward to the village. Although the people below were like ants from their high vantage, Goldwing’s superior vision allowed her to make out even the tiniest of details. She could see the old woman, her father Hungra kneeling over her body, and the crumpled form of Goldwing, the red plummed arrow embedded in his chest.

Ume’s mind recoiled at the scene below, reeling and spinning as if a sudden updraught had caught them unaware. From their position high above, the scene appeared like some foreign drama being played out. But deep in the recesses of her mind metal was scraping on metal signalling a more terrible and intense period of grief, a full comprehension of the reality which ultimately she knew she had to return to.

The reeling and spinning, with this new grief, became a plummeting, the figures that had been but distant specks were exponentially approaching them. Ume felt sick to the pit of her stomach. At the last moment Goldwing took control and they swooped so close to the ground that his wings could have brushed a cloud of dust from the stony ground. Her mind lost its grip on the bird’s soul and spiralled into darkness. Suddenly she felt terribly alone.

She panicked now as she became aware of her own body, the numbness fading.

A sense of reassurance, that all would be well, passed into her, a parting gift from her avian soulmate. In that instant she had no more time for grief.

“I think she’s coming round,” Hungra said, with an uncertain smile.

The old crone bent low over the girl, examining her face and checked her breathing.

“The spirit of the bird has left her now,” She said plainly.

Within a few moments Ume’s eyes flickered open and she took a deep gasp. Then, slowly, she eased herself up into a sitting position and stared down at the fractured form of the bird next to her.

Hungra sat closely by her, putting an arm around her shoulder.

“Goodbye my friend,” she whispered. “I will fly with them,” she promised.

Thankyou the voice chimed almost inaudibly, thankyou . . .

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