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The Wishing Map
Chapter Eight: Liulah (Continued)
Previously: Zack decided to leave Liulah’s cloud and resume his search for his sister. But his body refused to sink through a hole to the ground below.
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He and Liulah stared at one another, their faces wearing the same expression. “Could you maybe push?”
Liulah began pushing on his head. He bobbed up and down like a floaty toy. They stared at one another for a while. “I could…” She climbed onto his shoulders. Now he bobbed like a floaty toy with a rider. They began to laugh in rhythm with the bobbing. Liulah fell off of his shoulders, collapsing onto the cloud floor next to the hole. They laughed like people using up their final allotment of happiness. Desperately. Hopelessly.
When the laughter finally subsided, Liulah said, “We’ll just have to take you all the way to the ground and see if you stick when we get there.”
Zack did not tell her what waited below.
Aviar didn’t see Liulah’s light-staff strike the edge of the broken temple because light-staffs are only visible from within clouds. He did, however, notice the cauliflower formation rushing toward his cliff. This bothered him for two reasons: first, it was not behaving as a cloud should, and Aviar was a stickler for correct behavior; second, and more important, it was about to interrupt his Raptor Cadets class.
Every year in the season of Birth (roughly equivalent to our spring), Aviar, the oldest and most revered of the Sheyar would take on an elite group of adolescents and train them in the advanced art of preying. Even though all of the young Sheyar were in their teens–between thirteen and eighteen feet tall–they were still in awe of the legendary bird.
“Hrrmmmm, errrrrrm, beaks forward!” Aviar commanded, jerking the Cadet’s attention away from the rapidly descending cloud and back to the cliffside classroom. “Now, if you’re in a dive and you spot a greb that’s larger than your original prey, or even a big meaty skeffie, what do you do?”
A skinny cadet raised his wing and offered a hesitant, “Sir, you evaluate whether—“
“No!” Aviar thundered. “If you spot another Uol-cursed target—forgive me, Lord—it means you’ve taken your eyes off your prey! And you never take your eyes off your prey! Hrrrmmmm, ermhrmm!”
Despite the presence of the imposing master hunter, the Sheyarlets could not help snatching glances as the thick white cloud landed on the edge of the cliff.
“Keldubar’s talons! Why can’t you just…” Aviar turned and saw the formation. He decided to go and inspect the vociferous vapor for himself.
Inside the cloud, Liulah and Zack were discussing what to do next. The moment they’d touched down, Zack had attempted to step onto the ground, but his body had simply refused to go below the bottom of the cloud; being made of mist, it no longer recognized the earth as its home.
Just as Liulah was about to suggest that it might be too late, a huge head popped up into the chamber. It was Aviar, and he wasn’t pleased.
“Ahhhhhhhh!” Zack recoiled. “I…uh…hey, big bird. Listen, I know you said you were going to cut off my—“
Before Zack could explain, a claw encircled him and jerked him toward the ground below. “Noooooooo! Please let me explaaaaaaaiiiii…!”
“Zack!” Liulah screamed.
“It’s OK!” Zack yelled as his face hit the snow-soaked mud. “I hope!”
With a whisk of Aviar’s massive wing, Liulah’s cloud was blown four miles away.
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Thoughts: Has your fate ever fallen into the hands of someone you were unsure about? What was the result?
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