Tail Feathers: Three Omens
Zure learns of his task.
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Zure's long white hair danced in the wind as he crossed the ancient courtyard of the sky monastery. Broken stone from the western platform lay strewn about. Many of the colorful flagstones that paved the yard were cracked from the damage as well, and Llynievellyn, the great tree that sat in the center, still smoked where parts of it had been licked with flames. A third of the branches had lost their violet blossoms.
“Aerijin did all this?” Zure called back, but Taphi was too far back to hear him.
“My lord?” she asked over the wind, scrambling to keep up, but Zure ignored her and threw open the double doors of the Sanctum of Seers. Unlike the immense, winding tower it sat upon, the sanctum was made entirely of wood, its cavernous belly held open by great columns. The walls were lined with high windows, and between each one was mounted one of the venerated seers of old. So ancient were these beings that their very bones had turned to wood. Now each one had fallen silent, and each one had joined with the monastery, hanging there in graceful silence, their minds conjoined with those seers still young enough to have agency in the physical world. And there, in the back of the sanctuary, was Aerijin.
The cerulean dragon thrashed about, its tremendous bulk rolling over the broken remains of an altar. A dozen ropes seeped in binding magic held him down, but with every twist of Aerijin's serpentine neck, a disheveled monk went flying.
“Aerijin!” Zure bellowed, and the dragon snapped its head around to look at him. “Aerijin do setnah vestul! Do setnah, ha?” The dragon gave a snort of smoke, but ceased resisting its captors.
“Lord Zure!” called a wounded monk, and he scurried over to the dragon rider, blood from a split eyebrow running down his cheek. “We are pleased to see you.”
“When did he return?” Zure asked.
“Last evening,” the monk sighed. “Though it was more of an attack than a return. We have only just contained him, and well,” the monk waved an arm at the room in evidence of their failure. The wounded brothers and sisters of the monastery were being tended by their comrades. One of the mighty columns had been shattered near its base, and everywhere there were broken furnishings. Zure was relieved to see that none of the seers bound to the walls appeared to have been harmed, despite several windows having been shattered. Aerijin gave an impatient shriek.
“Steady old friend,” Zure said, as he walked to the dragon, drawing a long knife from his belt. He sliced through the ropes in four fluid swipes, and Aerijin immediately right himself, stretching out his wings and shaking out his tail. Zure ran a hand along the beast's flank.
“Why have you returned?” he wondered aloud.
“Zure Dothrykt!” The voice cut through the awkward silence that followed Aerijin's release. Zure turned to look at the seer who sat on the nearby throne. She did not look at him, and Zure realized she was likely one of the Meina'ny. Her body had little time left in this world, and soon she would be joining her brothers and sisters upon the walls.
“What is it, seer?” he snapped. “Why have you robbed me of my reward?” The seer appeared young and beautiful, but the difficulty with which she spoke revealed the truth of the countless years that hung upon her. Only her eyes moved without struggle.
“We are all to be robbed, dragon rider,” she said. “I see time has made no improvement to your temperament.”
“I have fulfilled my obligations,” he insisted. “There was a promise.”
“There was,” agreed the seer. “But fate cares little for obligations or promises. If anything, it toys with them like a kitten batting at string. You have been awoken, Master Dragon Rider, because the world is unraveling.”
“Unraveling,” Zure whispered. He turned and saw Taphi tending to a wounded sister and his mind wandered to thoughts of his love who waited below. Behind him, he heard Aerijin give a sigh, and looking at the dragon he again asked, “Why have you returned?”
“The weavers have abandoned their work,” the seer continued sorrowfully. “The Tapestry of Fate sits untended, and already the ends undo themselves.”
“Where are the weavers?” Zure asked.
“Gone from here. Scattered. Driven out by the knowledge the ancient ones bestowed upon them. They saw what was coming, and could not bear it.”
“A mistake,” said Zure, though when he heard the words he was ashamed at how pitiful they sounded. The seer groaned, and with great effort she raised a hand and extended a single finger.
“The first omen,” she said. “The throne of Owendale sits empty. “The king and his heir have vanished.”
“That is but one omen,” Zure protested. “We know how humans squabble. Their kings come and go.”
“The second omen,” she continued. “A black bird appeared bearing tidings of war.”
Zure looked back at Aerijin in desperation. “Why have you returned?” he screamed.
“The third omen. Riddle Jon walks the land once more. And in his footsteps hides malfeasance. But you already knew this Dothrykt. For it is only when all three omens have been revealed that the Harbinger could return.”
Zure shook his head and asked, “What do you want from me?”
“The heir of Owendale must be found,” she replied. “He must be brought safely to Sky Mountain.”
“So be it,” Zure agreed. “A simple task. Aerijin and I shall leave at once.”
“It is not so simple dragon rider,” the seer warned. “We have seen the heir, and he has been changed.”
“He is no longer human. He has become a mouse.”
“Then how shall I find him?” Zure wondered, and the seer turned to look at him, her eyes full of pity.