Wednesday 31 July 2013

Full Flight.

By Hannah Begg.

His eyes opened, and for the first time, he saw.

He gasped in surprise as the bright lights flooded his vision. Buckling forward, he pressed the palms of his hands against his closed eyes.

“Stop - turn the power down!” cried a worried voice. “Turn it down, quick!”

He felt a gentle hand on his back and a quiet voice in his ear: “Just breathe, okay? One step at a time.”

Slowly sitting up, he peeled his hands away from his face and began to open one eye. Light streamed in; objects swam into view. Blinking both eyes, he started to see faces - hundreds of faces - staring up at him, mouths open, eyes wide.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” a voice echoed throughout the hall, “the Aspectus 3.0 has now been switched on. We are witnessing a life-changing moment in history as Subject A experiences sight for the first time.”

He slowly raised a trembling hand out in front of him - his fingers were so long, his skin so pale; the sleeve of his shirt was a vivid colour with delicate stitching etched across the fabric. He stared, captivated, as his eyes focused on the intricate web of material resting on his skin. He’d worn this shirt before, carefully folded the sleeves away from his wrists a dozen times - and now he felt unnerved. It looked so different from what he’d always imagined.  

The spotlight was heating his skin. Looking out at the crowd, the scene before him began to blur. The faces staring back were a patchwork of images; shadows criss-crossed in every direction; the depth of the room was an endless sea of shapes and colours. Blinking hard, he tried to focus as the room began to spin.

“Jonathon,” came a familiar voice; he felt his brother’s hand rest lightly on his shoulder. “How’re you doing?”

Letting out a breath, he reached for his brother’s hand, steadying himself; he turned - and found himself looking up into the unknown face of a man. The broad smile, the penetrating eyes... This wasn’t the face he’d been picturing for thirty years. 

“Jonathon? Are you okay?”

He stared up into the man’s face, suddenly disoriented; the voice was the one he’d been hearing for thirty years, but the face was that of a stranger’s...

Dropping his brother’s hand, he hunched forwards, pressing his hands over his eyes.

The voice was booming into the microphone again. “A monumental occasion, ladies and gentlemen. Subject A, experiencing sight for the first time in his life, thanks to many years of research and dedication...”

The booming voice was becoming distorted, reverberating around Jonathon’s head, making his ears ache. He pressed his hands harder against his face, dizziness washing over him, nausea rising in his throat. Worried voices began speaking all around him... They sounded muffled, distant - he couldn’t make out the words. Opening his eyes, he was confronted by several concerned faces peering down at him. Blinking, he felt the lights in the room becoming even brighter, dazzling him, as a loud buzzing filled his mind. Looking down, he realised someone was resting a hand on his arm - but he couldn’t feel it. His arm felt numb; his skin was beginning to tingle.

Firmly closing his eyes, he stood up.

Taking a deep breath, he shouted, “I can't do this.”

The buzzing in his head grew louder; someone passed his walking stick into his outstretched hand. His fingers gripped the familiar wooden handle, and he spun round, keeping his eyes tightly closed as he strode from the auditorium.

Making his way along twisting corridors, he pushed through the heavy doors and felt the cold, fresh air whip across his face. Breathing deeply, he stood as his heartbeat began to slow, and his hands stopped trembling. Keeping his eyes firmly closed, he made his way across the stretch of pavement until he reached the picnic tables. Feeling his way onto one of the wide seats, he sat down heavily. His muscles relaxed; sitting quietly, he listened to the traffic rumbling in the distance, the birds chirping high above.

Far behind him, he heard the heavy doors open and close, and someone making their way across the pavement.

His brother sighed as he sat down next to him. “It’s overwhelming, isn’t it?”

Jonathon didn’t reply, keeping his eyes closed, face tilted upwards, the sun warming his skin.

His brother spoke again. “It’ll take a while to get used to it. Just take your time, no rush.”

They sat in silence for several moments. A car horn sounded in the distance; traffic continued to rumble along.

Jonathon took a slow breath in, lowered his face and turned towards his brother. Clearing his throat, he began to speak in a soft voice. “I listen to things,” he murmured. “I hear the world around me; I feel my way through each day. Life is about music, sweet-tasting coffee, rough sand between my toes...” He paused, listening to the birds singing in the trees above. “Just then, in there, I gained the sense of sight... but I felt like I was losing my other senses.”

His brother was silent beside him.

Jonathon spoke softly again. “What if I can’t handle this?” He took a breath, and his voice cracked as he spoke again: “Being blind is all I’ve ever known.”

He felt his brother’s hand rest lightly on his arm. “It’s a massive change,” he said. “And I’m sure it’s completely overwhelming. But,” he added, squeezing Jonathon’s arm, “I think it’ll be worth taking the leap. One step at a time. Open your eyes.”

Jonathon shook his head. “I’m not ready.”

“Open them slowly,” his brother persisted. “Oh - look up! You’ve always wanted to see one of these!”

“One of what?” Jon asked, keeping his eyes tightly closed.

“Listen,” his brother said. They sat in silence for a moment, and then Jon heard it - delicate, lilting notes, high above.

“It’s one of those honey-eating birds,” his brother murmured beside him, giving his arm another squeeze. “It’s up in the tree.”

Jon sat still, eyes closed, listening to the musical notes as they floated down from the sky; his mind began to form an image of a tiny bird balancing high above, jumping from branch to branch as its song got swept along by the gentle breeze.

“Jon,” his brother’s voice interrupted his thoughts. “Open your eyes.”

“But -” 

“Now! Trust me.”

With his heart racing, Jonathon opened his eyes; he squinted as the bright sun flooded his vision. Clutching the seat, he blinked furiously as objects began to swim into view.

“There, Jon, up there,” his brother persisted. “Look up at the sky.”

Peering up, he ignored the confusion of colour and movement that swayed before his vision; swallowing against the panic that was rising in his throat, he squinted at the smooth, empty sky. 

“It’s... endless,” Jon murmured. Then he let out a gasp as something small swooped across his vision, high above; the brightly coloured bird sailed through the air, its wings outstretched, its feathers glinting in the sun. Landing lightly in a tree in the distance, it let out a high-pitched call.

Jon stared, mouth open, as the bird’s song drifted down through the branches.

“Isn’t it beautiful?” his brother asked softly. Jon didn’t reply; the musical notes were floating through the leaves, dancing across the stretch of space and filling Jon’s mind as he watched the bird singing, its head lifted towards the sky, its wings tucked neatly by its sides.

He sat motionless as the sun warmed his face, and he slowly began to smile.

True love is blind

By Lisa Rapley

Her eyes opened and for the first time she saw. If it were anyone else, you wouldn’t think twice about being able to see the sky, or your hand in front of your face. But for Alice, it was the first time she was seeing anything in the 22 years she had been alive.

Alice was born blind. A congenital defect where she was born with cataracts clouding her vision. All she could make out throughout her childhood were shades and shapes, but now, her eyes fluttered as the doctor removed the bandages.

She saw the white-washed walls of the doctor’s office, the leather chairs and mahogany desk. Catching her eye was the vividly coloured abstract painting behind the desk.
She stared at in wonder, taking in the colours and lines. It astounded her how something could be so simple, so colourful, yet so beautiful.
“That painting,” she said, “It’s gorgeous.”
The doctor looked at her, with a smile spreading across his face.
“Well I guess that answers the question of whether you can see or not.”
She grinned up at him. She could see.

Half an hour later she exited the doctor’s surgery and began walking down the street. Alice no longer needed her guide, she could walk freely, avoiding people who were walking in the opposite direction, stopping when she saw a crossing, even looking up and seeing the clouds moving across the sky.

She took in the tall buildings and the cracks in the pavement. Unknown colours popped everywhere, she could barely take everything in as she headed towards the train station. There were so many new experiences and she couldn’t wait to start.

Arriving at Greg’s was a new experience. She knew how to count the blocks from the station and to count the houses down the street. It was almost a second home for her, she was at Greg’s house as much as she was at her own. Counting the blocks was the only way she knew how to get there. But as soon as she saw the house with the brightly coloured letter-box and coloured flower after coloured flower lining the garden, she knew where she was.

It was Greg’s idea to plant the flowers in the first place. She had constantly told him she could never make out the colours, just shapes and varying degrees of grey. But he had insisted in planting all the flowers. He would say that if she ever could see colours, she would know exactly which house was his. They swayed in the slight breeze, brightening the decrepit picket fence. How very right he was. She had no idea what the flowers were, or even what colours they were, but they were every colour and absolutely stunning.

Alice knocked on the front door of Greg’s townhouse and a few seconds later he opened the door.
“Alice!” he exclaimed. “I said to text me when you left the doctor’s and I would come pick you up. What happened?”
She just looked at him. Taking in her best friend for the first time. She had run her hands over his face many times before, attempting to know it and recognise it. But that felt a long time ago and vastly different to what she was seeing, and experiencing, now. His eyebrows were big and bushy, with sharp light eyes underneath. Creases splayed out from the corners, making him look older than he actually was - 29. His lips were thin, but a wide smile creased his face. And finally, his dark hair sat spikely over his head. Alice took him in slowly. This was her best friend. This was her Greg. At the thought, a feeling awoke in the pit of her stomach, beginning to snake through her body.
“I decided to make my own way here, are you going to let me in or not?” she finally said, after realising Greg had actually spoken.
“Of course, I almost forgot,” he said, reaching for her arm to guide her inside the house. But Alice pulled her arm from his hand.
“It’s ok, Greg, I got this,” she said, pushing past him and into the dimly lit foyer. Out the corner of her eye, she swore she saw his mouth fall open.

After relaying what the doctor had said, Greg sat on the couch next to Alice dumbfounded.
“I just can’t believe you can see, this is amazing!”
Alice smiled a wry smile and took another sip of coffee. She couldn’t believe it either. And now was the time that Greg decided to test her on her new found power.
Holding up a throw pillow he asked, “What colour is this?”
She looked at him sideways, “Now that’s the downfall of this new ability of mine,” she said. “I know my colours, I just don’t know what to associate them to. For all I know that pillow is actually grey.”
Greg snorted. “This pillow is far from grey. It’s red.” And he lopped the pillow at her. It had the same brightness as the painting.
“See, now I know that this colour is red. I can now tell you that that pillow is also red,” she said pointing at the pillow on the other couch.
“Ok,” Greg said with a pause. “What about the bowl on the table?”
Alice looked at it skeptically. Once again, it could be grey for all she knew. But what she did know, is that it wasn’t red.
“Well, it isn’t red,” she said smartly. “What colour is it?”
“It’s blue,” Greg exclaimed with glee, unable to contain himself. The same colour as his eyes.
“You’re far too excited about this,” she said, rolling her eyes.
“That’s because this is fantastic news. And we should celebrate! But aside from that, it is actually fun being able to tease you about something.”
“Ok, so how should we celebrate?”
“I don’t know, we could have fancy dinner?”
“I’m not really in the mood for a fancy dinner, but maybe just dinner?”
“But that’s what we do most nights, is just dinner. This is a special occasion, don’t you want to do something?!”
“Then we’ll open a bottle of champagne,” Alice suggested, “This seeing thing is going to take some getting used to. Slow steps out into society are needed.”
“Dinner here with champagne it is then,” Greg said, nodding his approval.

They had entrenched themselves on the couch for the night. For dinner they had ordered pizza and pulled a bottle of champagne out of the fridge to celebrate Alice’s new found sight. She was still absorbing so much. Greg had taken her through the house showing her every room and pointing out colours as they went. It was exhausting. She wanted to crawl into a ball and sleep for a week. But the fact she had Greg to show her everything - she couldn’t have asked for more.

They had first met after she finished high school and instantly became friends. They had many things in common and Greg was overly protective of her. He was practically the brother she didn’t have, in a way. Or just, the family she didn’t have. He had guided her through so much and had even been the one to encourage her to look into treatment. The only reason it had taken 22 years for her to get the surgery she needed was that she didn’t have a family that cared for her. Growing up with foster families meant she was pushed aside, with no one really caring for her. Almost as if she was a second-class citizen. Until she met Greg, she had no idea that her blindness was reversible.

“We have so much catching up to do now that you can see. I have so many movies I want to show you. I don’t really know where to start.”
Alice looked at him. “I have watched movies before. I don’t think rewatching will make much of a difference to how I feel about them,” she said tossing the last pizza crust into the box.
“It’s not about whether you’ve seen them before or not, it’s about the imagery. You’ll love it, I promise.”
“Ok, we can re-watch stuff, but maybe not tonight. It’s been a long day and I kind of just want to sleep. Can I crash here tonight?”
“Sure,” he said. “You’re usual room is ready, as always.”

She’d been lying in bed for awhile now, trying to get to sleep. Even though she was exhausted, blissful unconsciousness was not making an appearance. She had heard Greg head to bed about half an hour ago. Maybe she would sneak into his room like she sometimes did when she couldn’t sleep.

Padding into his room quietly was easy for Alice, she was so used to not seeing anything, she knew where the obstacles were. The timber floors were cold underneath her feet, but she soon found the bed and pulled the covers back, crawling in beside Greg.
He rolled over and put his arm around her.
“Can’t sleep?”
“Uh huh.” He knew her well.

And she started to think. He did know her well, just like she knew him. Having seen him for the first time kind of awoke something inside her. She thought back over the years, not once had she known Greg to  have a girlfriend. She wondered why. It was the type of thing she could ask him freely. Or maybe he was gay. Why would he never be interested in anyone and let her sleep in his bed when she couldn’t sleep in her own. Plain and simple - gay. It had to explain it.

“Are you gay,” she blurted.
“Um... no,” Greg replied. “What makes you ask that?”
“I don’t know. It’s just... you’ve never had a girlfriend in the time that I’ve known you.”
“I did when we met. Her name was Cass, but we broke up shortly after. I guess it wasn’t really worth mentioning.”
“And what about since?” Alice asked. They had known each other for four years.
“There’s just never been anyone.”
Alice took this in. Maybe there was someone, but he just wasn’t telling her. Why wouldn’t he tell her? Why had it taken her this long to figure it out? Why had it happened on the day she could finally see? All the questions raced through her mind. She could see it clearly now, there was no one else because of her. She was it for him. Clear as day.
“Is it because of me?” she asked.
At this Greg opened his eyes and propped himself up by an elbow.
Simply, he said, “Yes.”
“Why have you never said anything?” she asked, looking directly into his blue eyes.
“I didn’t think you felt the same way. You never acted like it was something you wanted,” he paused, “... do you?”

She thought hard. She had never met anyone else like Greg, who had accepted her so openly and without hesitation. Now that she would not be labeled as different, would there be someone? Did she even want someone else? Or was it because she could finally see, that she had noticed the one person who was standing in front of her this whole time? That’s absurd, she thought. Vision isn’t what dictates love. But something had changed with how she perceived Greg, in just the few short hours since she could see.

She noticed how he acted around her - his expressions and body motions. She now saw how he looked at her - intently, piercingly, with his blue eyes. The look he was giving her now made the feeling in the pit of her stomach lear again, as if electrocuting her. She was certain the pangs she was experiencing were dormant feelings finally taking flight.

“It is now,” she said simply.

Greg leaned down and kissed her on the lips gently, then with a bit more pressure. A pulse shot through her. Sometimes it just takes time to see what has been right in front of you all along. Or a miracle, Alice thought.

Tuesday 23 July 2013


By Reg Elliott.

The jagged cliffs of Winbreton Bay’s northern peak caught slivers of orange light from enemy fire- spheres as they rocketed towards Winbreton.  Bremonth, the ancient custodian of the northern peak had learnt to wait in these situations. Conservation of energy was paramount in repelling attacks. Since the custodian of the Southern peak had gallantly met its end in battle over a century before, Bremonth had repelled all the attacks on Winbreton single handed. Age had wearied him but not diluted his ferocity and God-given serpentine enthusiasm for killing men.

The ships of the attackers became larger every time they came.  Bremonth thought to rush in would be foolish. It had never been said Dragons were dim-witted and for good reason. Bremonth let the first salvos from the enemy sail past harmlessly in order to alert Winbretons’ defences. Looking from high on his peak to the back pocket of the bay, he watched the spheres drop short of Winbreton harbour and sink beneath the water’s surface.  Winbreton’s defence vessels, already manned, begun to manoeuvre towards the north and south peaks.  As with every conflict it was best to keep the enemy out of the bay and at the mercy of the elements while battle was conducted.

Bremonth dropped his head and curved his thick scaly neck as he heaved two enormous black shoulders into action. Stretching his vast wings and sharpening his eyes for battle he summoned a potency from within. A silver flash from below alerted him to something else altogether. Down at the base of stronghold a small boat bobbed close to the rocks.  It was empty.  The moonlight edging past a thick cloud threw a soft blue glow on the rocks below giving away the position of a small advance party sent to silence Bremonth. Negotiating the cliffs suddenly became an even more treacherous task for these poor few as a fifty nine ton Creedmoor defence Dragon set down on them. Fire spewed from two giant nostrils.  Just enough to singe and dislodging the men from the cliffs tumbling into the powerful currents of freezing wind and to their deaths below.

A few arrows had found their way to the Bremonths’ breastplate and bounced off it like a toothpicks. Though smiling was not in the Creedmoor’s make up, a smirk was not out the question.

And showing off? They were not capable of this. Still, posturing was not out of the question! Knowing well the attackers had witnessed his swift disposal of the hapless men, Bremonth regally resumed his lofty position upon the north peak for all to behold. He was a magnificent bastard though.

Bremonth once more checked on the progress of the Winbreton defence crews heading out to make battle. Bremonth was losing patience with their slow progress.

The attackers watched in horror as Bremonths’ gigantic frame lifted from his lofty perch then dropped like a stone, swooped towards them.  Suddenly a yawning banking movement had him heading back into the bay where he rounded the small Winbreton defence flotilla. Positioning himself behind the fleet and hovering only metres about the water he beat his powerful wings with slow heaving movements.  It was noticeable even to the attackers some distance away that the Winbreton fleets’ speed increased significantly thereafter.  Bremonth lifted high into the night sky once more then dived down to become flat above the water and performed a flyby of the attackers out at sea before heaving himself up upon his perch and looking back towards the Winbretons’ defence fleet. He gave an almighty roar. He was also an impatient bastard. 

Waiting for the battle to begin in earnest he folded his wings, dipped his head as his eyes closed over in a weary fashion. Perhaps the attackers would turn for open sea and run like so many before them.

From the deck of an attack ship a horn sounded.

Bremonth immediately sensed something he’d not experienced in a long time.  He did not look up. Better to feel. The air closed in around him.  His leathery skin flinch and quivered.  He raised his huge black head. His eyes opened and for the first time he saw.

The seething skies behind the attack fleet were sliced in two by a tortuous screech as a mass of bright yellow barrelled out of an ominous cloud bank toward him.  Bremonth was not prepared for this.  A Creedmoor attack Dragon.  It drew closer.

Bremonths’ nostrils suddenly acquired a life of their own flaring, snorting and spluttering pellets of fire until an uncontrollable eruption drew fire from his belly that would torch a thousand villages.

Giving away his position, Bremonth took to the air with gusto and intent not felt by the old dragon in many years. The attack Creedmoor having spotted its foe circled its own fleet in an attempt to guard all.  But the old dragons’ vivacity had not deserted him.  Bremonth’s keen eye told him this was a young attack Creedmoor. He went for it maliciously. As the younger Dragon made a turn to evade Bremonth, the old dragon performed a complete about face. Diving back toward the attack fleet. The young dragon mimicked Bremonth and closed in on his tail.  Bremonth was not at all as quick in flight as he should be. The reason for this soon became apparent as two huge boulders materialised from his claws and plummeted unto the decks of two of the ships.  Both perfect hits ripping through the decks, Bremonth swung back in an instant and spewed fire into the gaping hulls then pulled away to survey the damage.  After only a matter of seconds the fire on both ships spread to the armoury blowing each out the water leaving a single vessel to confront Winbretons’ crews closing in fast.

The opposing Dragon decided attack was the best form of defence set an immediate course for the Winbreton fleet.   It closed in on the Winbreton fleet with haste and purpose.  Suddenly the horn from the attack ships sounded again.  This time it was a different tone.

The attack Creedmoor was bound to obey.  It slowed, propped and almost stood up on the water beating its beautiful yellow wings.

In the distance the attackers were being ushered back out towards the perilous black ocean by Bremonth. Once more his gigantic wings creating an undeniable gust the ship could not fight. The attack Creedmoor had not witnessed lives being sparred before.

Soon, with the ships course righted, Bremonth flew high into dark sky this time in the direction of the abandoned southern peak of the bay. A breath of fire lit a beacon deep inside a long dormant cave. Bremonth returned to his northern perch and waited.

The attack Credmoor had no choice.

The bleak cave was volumous.  A deep fire pit had been unlit for many years but now burned brightly. The silence of the cave was only broken by the restless sea outside. The fire grew and danced on the yellow scales of the Creedmoor as it edged cautiously into its new home. Soon to be found was a kind of annex and there too another deep fire pit. Sitting there in the darkness were four shapes. They had waited patiently for decades.  For only a female Creedmoor can work the magic to make an egg wake.

Bremonth smirked once more.

Monday 15 July 2013


by Sarah Begg

Its eyes opened and for the first time it Saw. Trees flew by far beneath as it soared, wind-bound, racing across the land in the air currents. The feeling was exhilarating, terrifying.
Muscles rippled as it beat its strong wings and higher it flew. Its eyes scanned the land below, seeking movement. There! Something darted in the fields. It gathered its wings in, and began to plummet – but then a strange force compelled its wings to open, its eyes to move away from its prey, forced it up again into the air.
The great bird shrieked its annoyance and, bunching its muscles, gave an almighty shake of its head, expelling the force that was exerting a different will over the bird.

The youth sprawled backwards on the ground as if he had been forcefully pushed, his head splitting with an almighty headache.
“Jaquin!” the old man hobbled forwards quickly and bent over the boy.
The boy's vision swum with disorientation for a moment as he stared up at the close canvas ceiling of the tent, the air strong with incense. The old Shaman bent across his vision, the bright blue tattoos on his cheeks and forehead shining in the light of the braziers.
“Did you make contact?” the Shaman's eyes shone with excitement as he gazed down at his protege.
“Yes Master,” Jaquin managed to say, finding his tongue as he regained his senses as a human again. “I was one with the eagle.”
“And how was it? What happened?” the Shaman leaned forward eagerly.
“It was... strange. Different. It was only momentary. When I tried to control the bird it shook me off almost straight away.”
The Shaman gasped. “You were able to control it on your first encounter? That is extraordinary!”
The Shaman clambered awkwardly to his feet and began pacing around the room, his excitement overcoming the arthritis that usually crippled him from moving too much.
“Do you know what this means boy?”
Jaquin sat up, the pain in his head beginning to subside. He looked up expectantly at his master, waiting for the answer.
The Shaman stopped pacing and came to stand proudly in front of Jaquin.
“It means, boy, that you have mastered the last trial of your apprenticeship. The time has come for you to step forwards and become Shaman.”

The ceremony took place at the half moon. Jaquin spent the entire day fasting and meditating at the top of Eagle rock, close to his clan's home. As the sun began its descent, Jaquin rose and walked proudly back into the village. The old Shaman, his former master, was waiting for him and together they walked to the river for the ritual bathing. When they returned to the village, now dressed in the ceremonial whites, it was to find every one of the clan turned out to welcome him with respect – he, the boy who no one had paid attention to would now be one of the most highly esteemed members of the clan.
Most of the ritual was new to Jaquin, having never seen a new Shaman initiated before. The old Shaman and the clan Chief led the ceremony and Jaquin was surprised to see the prettiest of the village girls now batting their eyelids at him flirtatiously or simply staring at him in admiration. He felt his chest swell with pride.
When the ceremony was over the girls came forward and offered Jaquin sweet wine and fruits to break his fast, smiling shyly at him all the while. Jaquin smiled back, feeling his blood begin to pulse with a strange new feeling.
The feast began soon afterward with Jaquin taking pride of place at the Chief's right hand side. There was mountains of food and the children performed a dance to entertain the adults.
Towards the end of the night, when Jaquin's head was especially swimming with sweet wine, the Chief leaned over and engaged him in conversation.
“I hear you have become one with the great eagle that flies the plain, Jaquin,” the Chief said.
“Yes, Chief,” Jaquin nodded respectfully. “I flew with the great bird and saw as he saw.”
“That is very good,” the Chief replied. “Because now we have need of your skills. The Tahina clan over the western hills have been silent for too long. I fear they have cut off communication with us because they want to attack and steal our lands, which are far superior to theirs.”
Jaquin remained silent, though he felt a knot of dread clench his stomach.
“I need you to fly as the eagle flies and bring us knowledge of what the Tahina clan does,” the Chief continued. “Can you do that?”
The dread in Jaquin's stomach turned to fear. He had only flown momentarily with the eagle, and something like this was difficult and dangerous. He glanced quickly at the old Shaman sitting nearby, who he knew would have been listening. His former master was scowling, concern and anger etched on his face at this dangerous request from the Chief. Yet now that Jaquin was himself Shaman, it was not the place for the elder Shaman to interfere in Jaquin's decisions.
Jaquin knew it would be unwise for him to attempt what the Chief was asking, and he was about to say so when he caught the gaze of the Chief's daughter sitting close by. The young woman was gazing at him with a look of admiration and awe, also waiting for his answer. Without another thought, Jaquin's mind was made up.
“Yes Chief,” he said drawing himself up proudly in his chair. “I can do this for you.”

The next morning Jaquin sat in the Shaman's closed tent, the incense curling about his senses. His old master had refused to attend, adamant Jaquin was making a mistake and attempting too much too soon. But Jaquin was confident – he could do this. This time he would not force the bird to do things, he would only give it subtle suggestions so that he would not be thrown.
It took a few hours of meditation before he managed to enter the trance, but then the connection was almost instant.

The ground dropped away far beneath as it soared over the land. The strong muscles held the wings outstretched allowing it to simply glide, suspended in the air. A feeling emerged – there was something slow and easy to catch waiting for it beyond the hills over there.
Changing directions, it flew towards the hills, feeling with its wings the signs of the air currents that could take it up and over the land with ease.
As it glided over the trees there was a sense of danger ahead – this was a bad direction. But then no, this was a good direction – there was prey over here that was easy and filling. It continued to fly over the hills.
It sailed over the land and again the danger was sensed, more strongly. It tried to bank and turn, tried to head back, but the other will was holding it steady, forcing it to keep its course. Screaming, the eagle twisted in the air, fear and confusion twisting its mind.
And then the arrow struck, piercing the bird through the neck. Its wings flapped uselessly, horribly twisting as the bird began to plummet. The air rushed past, its body went limp and a second later it struck the land.

Jaquin's eyes sprung open – he was on his back, all the air knocked out of his lungs, staring again at the smokey canvas above. And now there was a horrible, hollow feeling in his chest, as if he had been beaten profusely and then had his heart scooped out.
He hadn't been able to free himself from the bird in time. He knew, instinctively, that his power, his Shaman ability, had died along with the bird.
Horrified, a tear rolled down his cheek.
Moments later his old master entered the tent and peered down at him, knowing.
“Jaquin,” the disappointment and sadness in his voice could not be masked. “Your pride has failed you. You have tried too much too quickly.”
The Shaman limped slowly out of the tent again, his back bent with grief. At the entrance he stopped and turned back, his voice cracking with sorrow as he spoke again.
“You are Shaman no more.”
The incense rippled slightly in the air as the tent flap fell into place and the old Shaman was gone.

For a long time Jaquin lay in the smokey tent, crying and grieving at his own stupidity, at the power and esteem he had held so briefly and lost so quickly.
When he finally rose, determination had filled the hollow in his chest.
This was not the end. He would not give up. His Shaman ability may have died for now but he would resurrect it and return stronger than before.

He would be Shaman again.