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Monday, June 15, 2009

New Short Story - WIP

Written by:
Bonnie Watson
Copyright © 2009

The morn was as bright as any other day for the sky homes in Sundire. High above the clouds they collected like giant lilly pads of independent villages, attached from below to keep from floating off. As twelve-year-old Chelsea Williams trotted outside, she wondered how far down they went, especially when a piece of paper swept away from her grasp and was lost over the edge. How many others were there, she pondered, collected over time in a place where no other could venture? That was, unless you had a shape-shifter, which Chelsea did not at the moment. Instead, she waited patiently with her pad of paper settled on her lap, pencil in hand, and began to draw.

It was half past noon by the time the carrier arrived, late as usual. Chelsea pocketed her pencil and rose when the great winged beast carrying the latest letters of importance to her village appeared in the distance. A spectacular site, its wings stretched wider than a rooftop, and louder than her mother's rug beating on the down stroke. Its neck stretched like that of a dragon with the head quite equine. White bony plates lined down the neck, all the way to the shoulder blades where its carrier, a boy of sixteen, sat atop with as much pride as a kitten catching its first mouse.

A wide grin spread across Chelsea's face when he saw her standing at the edge. With a single wave, she stood back to allow the great creature to alight with ease. The boy instantly dismounted, taking a sack of letters with him.

"You're late," she said matter-of-factly, hands to her hips.

"Should be used to that by now," was the reply as they started toward the drop-off point.

From behind, they could hear the dragon like creature yawn. Chelsea even stole a glance behind her to see it shift back to its original form. Just as pompous looking as Will. She shook her head. Nearly human looking herself, the shape-shifter walked over to a watering trough and spooned some of the liquid to her lips.

"You dropped one again." Chelsea dug through her papers to produce a yellow tinted letter.

Instantly, the boy snatched it from her grasp.

"Gees, Chels, how do you catch these things?" He turned the letter over, his brisk walk slowing only slightly to read the address. "Ah, crap! This is Mrs. Loveingston's! She was expecting this yesterday."

"Mrs. Loveingston?" Chelsea paused in thought. "Isn't she the one who sometimes has those community meetings?"

"Yeah." Will nodded. "And she's all the way back where I come from."

"Wow! That's like," she counted her fingers, "seven platforms over! Bet you'll be hearing from her too."

"Oh, not this time. I got class tonight." Arriving at the drop-off point, they pushed through the double doors into a small building where a gentleman greeted them at the counter.

"Hey there, son," the man said. "See you've a load for us today." He took the bag and poured its contents into a large bin for sorting. "No boxes today, huh?"

Will smiled.

"Sorry, Mr. Johnson, nothing yet."

"Ah, well. Have a good one then."

Chelsea followed Will back outside. Her village was not large like some of the others. Being one of the last settlements, they were the last to receive mail, which meant extra time to check out the shape-shifter Will had recently obtained from his father. Saffron was her name, just as wild looking in her original form as she was in her shifted appearances. Always, she kept her white hair cut back in static waves of intwined feathers and braids.

"Can't ride today, Chels," Will said without even turning to look at her.

She could feel a pout coming on, but instead held firm. I mustn't look like a baby in front of his mount.

"Oh, that's all right. I'm due for my own soon anyhow," she replied.

Will only laughed.

"You're so full of it, Chels. You know you can't be a carrier."

"Why couldn't I? You don't think a girl could brave the sky? You've seen how I ride."

Saffron was waiting just outside town when the two arrived, bickering over carriers again. With a shake of her head, Chelsea got another earful about the dangers of high-speed chases from Ember Mages, wicked electrical storms, and going for days without food or water just to reach the next destination.

"I'd like to meet an Ember Mage," she said thoughtfully. Of all stories containing elemental-users, the Ember Mages fascinated her most. "Just think what it would be like to walk through fire and not even get burned."

"Yeah," Will looked doubtful, "then feel their full power blasting hot ash in your face. That's how my dad got that scar across his cheek. They're totally evil! Don't ever go near one."

He whistled for his companion to shift so they could be off.

"Oh, sure! Like one would really come around these boring parts."

"Ya never know, young one," Will's shape-shifter answered once in her dragon form. "It wasn't too long ago one actually came this way. I had the pleasure of fending it off." The creature raised its head with pride. "Got an honorary metal to prove it."

Chelsea just waved the comment aside.

"That was back when we were still developing Sundire, before I was even born!"

"Still, one was here," was the huffy reply.

"Doesn't count." Chelsea rolled her eyes. "I will be a Carrier one day. You'll see."

Will waved goodbye as his mount lifted off into the sky. While watching them playfully dip through wisps of clouds, Chelsea sat down next to the landing platform to draw. The clink of pencil against the board made for a quick dash to retrieve it. Too late, it vanished over the side.

"You gotta' be kidding me!" She sighed and looked around at all the pages from her pad flung on the ground from the sudden movement. "That was my last one." She rose and started collecting the sketches. "Better run over to Mr. Johnson's before they close and order more."

As she sat to reorganized the papers back into her pad, a half torn letter flipped into view.

"Will, you're terrible at keeping letters together," she said to herself, turning it over to read the address. "Faulkner? That's Will's last name." It was so tempting to open the partially torn envelope that she decided to take a peek at the first few words shown in the opening.

We are in dire...

"Oh, it's probably for Will's father." Chelsea stood and stuffed the envelope under her arm, her pad under the other. "Though I can't believe Will missed this. He's usually good about keeping his family stuff straight." She took out the letter again and looked at the words. "But I wonder why he didn't get this delivered first when his house is right there at the drop-off point?"

Curiosity getting the better of her, Chelsea carefully folded the opening back so that it wouldn't rip. A green tinted piece of paper slipped out. Unfurling each section, she began to read.

To The Head Council Member, James Faulkner. Good day, Mr. Faulkner, we are in dire need of your assistance. A renegade shape-shifter was last seen heading toward Sundire two days ago. It is considered extremely dangerous and must be handled with great caution. I trust this message reaches you before the creature causes any damage. With greatest respect, Timothy Cecil.

"Cecil?" Chelsea studied at the name. "I'm not familiar with that name. He must live beyond the Great Gap." She turned to stare through the rich blue sky, barely able to make out the next village through the haze of drifting clouds in the distance.

Chelsea goes back to her place only to find the renegade shape-shifter named Ego hiding out in her bedroom. He's looking for a new carrier because the last two he had were too proud and inexperienced to realize they couldn't handle the Great Gap. Now the council is after him because they think he's responsible for a carrier that disappeared into the Great Gap. The carrier who's missing is Will. Chelsea knows she has to find him, so Ego agrees to fly her there. While there they encounter terrifying storms and Ember Mages. Ego and a few others are the only ones experienced enough to brave the Great Gap. The reason for the storms is due to the elemental-users practicing their magic. Ego has connections with some of the Ember Mages, so Chelsea gets to meet them. They find Will, who's hurt his leg and can't walk, and take him back to Sundire. There, the people want to condemn Ego for kidnapping Chelsea and endangering a carrier. When Chelsea thinks she'll never see Ego again, Will makes a final plea on Ego's behalf due to his father being head of the Council. Chelsea becomes an official Carrier and Ego gains back his honor.

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