Bill_Hartzia: The treetop swayed sickeningly under his meager weight...

The treetop swayed sickeningly under his meager weight, penduluming back and forth until with a drawn-out creak, and then a sickening snap, the top fifteen feet of the tree sheared off and plunged towards the earth.  With a shrill shriek of annoyance he spread his wings, ragged grey feathers catching the wind, and flapped upwards.  He spiraled laboriously, pain building in the muscles of his thin shoulders, striving for enough height to capture a thermal updraft to support him.  Finally he found one and spread his wings to their full extent, balanced invisibly on the air currents that encircled the globe, and slowly the heaving in his chest subsided and he got his breath back.

His head moved sharply from side to side with quick, bird-like movements, looking out for his sisters.  For now the skies were clear, though that in itself was an ominous sign; birds were scared of the Harpies and retreated to their nests when they were a-wing.  Dark clouds were rolling in from the west, already encroaching on the afternoon sun, with the promise of a storm to come.  Sighing softly to himself he tilted his wings and felt his body fall away, captured once more by gravity and pulled to the unforgiving ground.

He soared as low as he dared to the ground, pulling his wings in as he dropped to a few feet above Legg's meadow and hitting the ground running.  The shock of the landing jarred him, waking a familiar pain in his hips, and he spread his wings again now acting as a brake to slow his run.  As he halted, he folded them behind him.  They protruded still above his head, taller than he could stretch his arms, the most obvious reason why he had to live apart from other people.  Overhead the clouds were now hiding the sun and the light had dimmed to twilight.  There was a faint glow on the edge of the clouds, the harbinger of lightning, and he hurried across the field, his clawed feet sinking into the soft, wet earth, until he reached the hedgerow.  Beyond it the forest started, and a short walk into the forest was the two-roomed wooden hut he lived in.

The rain was falling in fat, gravid drops as he laid his hand on the door. It swung open, and something lunged at him, shrieking like a banshee.  He fell back, his claws snagging in the soft earth, and something heavy and smelling like a midden landed on his chest.

"Brother!" it shrieked, throwing its head back and rattling feathers.  Lice dropped from the Harpy's wings and scuttled over him, quickly hiding within his clothes.  He felt the itching start before they'd even landed, and writhed.  The Harpy's weight kept him pinned down though.

"Aello," he gasped, finding it hard to breathe.  "What do you-- do you-- want?"  He placed his hands against her breast and pushed, trying to dislodge her.

Aello simply shrieked again, competing now with the wind which was rising rapidly.

"Brother, we have come to warn you a final time," said Celaeno emerging from his hut.  Her black plumage enveloped her like a cloak, and her eyes glowed with the unnatural light bestowed on her by Zeus for her services.  In one hand she held a flitch of bacon, in the other the soft canvas bag that he kept his bread in.  "Stop assisting Aeolus.  Our parents will not protect if you continue this course."

"I-- I don't know-- who you--"

"Keep your wind."  Celaeno spat to the side of him, brown phlegm spattering on the earth.  "You do know, you know perfectly well what you're doing.  Stop it, and stop it now."  She laid an ebony hand on Aello's back.  "Come, sister.  We have other things to do tonight."

Aello launched herself into the air, the spurs on her feet ripping his sides and drawing blood, followed by Celaeno.  For a moment the two Harpies hovered in the air, their wings beating downwards with a malevolent force, and then they were gone and the storm broke properly, rain bucketing down and the remaining evening light lost and gone.  He picked himself up and stripped off, letting the chill torrent of water wash him clean and rid him of the lice, then went inside.  Celaeno had, of course, taken all the food in the hut with her.

When Aeolus came to the door the next morning he found the hut empty, blood spilled on the floor, and a sack containing several hollow bones.  A hastily scribbled note lay atop the bones, telling Aeolus to use the bones to fashion a harp.  While he stood bemused, reading and re-reading the note and wondering what had happened, the Harpies circled several miles away over their brother, who limped along the river's edge, his ruined wings jutting from his back, waiting for his punishment to be served.

The End

111 comments about this exercise Feed