Free as a Bird

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Saren, Dec 20, 2013.

  1. The sunlight of Ploma D'or was always bright and beautiful, though it beat on the backs of those working tirelessly. The trees were tall, but their leaves weren't enough to scatter the rays and stop them from shining down onto those doing hard labor.

    Aleta found herself lucky to be under the ground where it was cool, though there were always dangers to where she was placed. Mining was difficult work, and it showered dirt onto her wings, the ones bound to her abdomen to keep them from flaring when she felt panic or danger. There were only a few other winged people inside with Aleta, all of their wings contained in the same fashion. The Serpens told them it was a necessary precaution when working, and like everything else the snake people said, Aleta and the others believed them. She had to admit, it was nice when they were out of the way so she could pick gems and metals from the walls.

    Someone on the surface stepped a little too close to the entrance of the mine, and dust rained from the ceiling to stick in her silvery-gray hair and dark feathers threaded in those strands. They were woven into her thick braid easily enough, the hair pulled back so that it didn't get dirty.

    So much for that.

    Aleta sighed, slamming the sharp end of the pick into the wall. She was so wrapped in her thoughts of trying to rid her hair of dirt that she almost missed the sound of the metal tip clinking on something other than rocks. Leaning the pick against the wall, Aleta scrabbled her long, black, clawed fingernails into the dirt. Scraping enough of the wall away revealed a moderately sized sapphire. It was dark like the set of eyes staring at it, and Aleta wanted so badly to pocket the jewel and keep it for herself. However, she forced her hand to drop it into the sack at her feet. It wasn't very full today. Aleta saw only two little rubies and a chunk of amber. There was also a brick of limestone that another miner had given her for some odd reason. It was likely to get her in trouble with Vamilan, her Serpen superior, for being in the wrong mine, but Aleta had taken it anyway, not having the heart to tell the other Cloudi otherwise.

    Throughout the rest of her mining during the day, Aleta came across few other precious gems, but what she came across were thoughts. Mining was boring, but she dared not say that aloud. Vamilan was benevolent in most cases, but even he didn't tolerate words like that. He treated Aleta and the other Cloudis far enough, giving them breaks and water to help them through their day, but Aleta felt odd about doing so much work when Vamilan didn't. She didn't think she'd ever seen the Serpen even so much as glance at a pick axe.

    She said none of these things to her fellow miners, knowing they would be quick to silence her. She felt like she was the only one having these strange thoughts. The Serpens were kind, and they did have a lot of political and military work, so the Cloudis were doing them many favors by performing the harder work. But Aleta wanted to know what it was like inside Vamilan's grand house, the one with slanted roofs and lavish gates and freshly sprung grass outside.

    She hardly said a word to anyone, which wasn't out of the ordinary for her. Her thoughts were meant for her and her alone, for when she spoke of what she really wanted to say, the other Cloudis called her crazy.

    "Our lives are fine. The Serpens are our friends, and they treat us well. We do work, but they always thank us and are appreciative of the things we do for them,"
    they would say. Aleta know what they said to be truth, but as she returned to her small home with the bed too small for her tall frame, Aleta wondered what it was like to fly. She dropped her sack at the gate so the Serpens would know she was finished with her work and collect it. At least they did that themselves.

    "Hello, Aleta," her mother called, but Aleta only returned the greeting with a soft grunt. "Is something wrong, dear?"

    "No, Mami. I am just... tired." Contemplative was more like it. "I'm going to clean my hair." There was a thin disk of soap and a cotton towel sitting on the two drawer vanity in her room, and Aleta was quick to swipe and exit the house as her mother spoke her affirmation.

    The Serpens and Cloudis had crafted a large in-ground basin for washing, though the Serpens drew their water from somewhere else. At least the Cloudis weren't bothered by their serpent superiors down there. Aleta was alone, and she could see over the short stone fence that was attached to the rest of the city's walls. It was down in a lower section, just like all of the Cloudi homes. It seemed a strange way to set up a city if everyone was equally, but the architecture mattered little to Aleta. The solitude, however, was what did matter.

    Aleta unbound her wings, letting the two-toned bird wings hang at her sides. She stretched them out, almost feeling her bones creak from being confined so long. The basin water was cool as she slipped her hand into it, and she let it slide on her skin, relishing the quiet that surrounded her. Every day she came down to wash the dirt from her hair and wings, but she used it to think as well. She wanted to know more. Too much, Vamilan would say, she thought as she dipped one wing into the water to rid it of dirt.
  2. The trees in the forest of Dail'arian were impossibly tall, forever stretching upwards in an attempt to touch the heavens. The forest had stood largely untouched by the abusive hands of industrialism for centuries, and back when the Cloudi still had myths and legends of their own, the forest had been believed to be as old as time itself.

    Cerise flew higher and higher in the sky, expertly weaving in and out through the branches effortlessly until she finally breached the canopy formed by the arms of the trees and was welcomed into the warm embrace of the sun. The Dail'arian forest was the perfect place to hide, as the trees were far apart, but the foliage was so thick that the network of branches prevented a large portion of the sun's rays from reaching the forest floor and provided a darkness that allowed one to go about unnoticed. Yes, it kept Cerise safe from discovery, but it also made her feel isolated from the world and almost caged, in a way, that caused her a strong sense of discomfort somewhere deep inside of her being. Thus, periodically she flew higher than usual, soaring past the restricting branches and high up into the sky, the only place where a Cloudi could truly feel free.

    She headed east, soaring at a pleasant and leisurely place, as Cerise was in no hurry. She spotted the familiar tree down below her with minimal difficulty, for even though it lacked many unique characteristics with which to distinguish it from all of it's other arboreal brethren, Cerise knew the trees location better than she knew herself. Positioning herself over her target, she took a nosedive, quickly gaining speed as she darted through the branches. She laughed as she fell, the adrenaline fueling her rush while her wings kept her relatively safe. Once she existed the thickest area of the branches and into the area of about forty feet of open space above the ground, she unfurled her wings and adjusted the angle of her body in order to slow her fall.

    Her feet smacked hard against the Earth but it did nothing to dull the rush. She headed to the base of the tree, her hair in a disarray and a smile on her face, and she reached into a hole in the side of the tree which had long ago been hollowed out in order to create a rather efficient hiding place. In it rested around a dozen journals, each one faded and water-damaged, but they had otherwise stood the test of time. Cerise grabbed the one on the top of the pile, as well as a piece of charcoal from the bottom of the nook, and opened it up to the most recent page.

    Day 89,458: Nothing significant to report.

    The journals had been a tradition of years passed, one that Cerise now carried the burden of so that it wouldn't die with the others. Many different hands had written in these books, and many more filled journals were stored back in the village. There had once been many trees filled with these books all over the forest; now there was only twelve books left.

    Having fufiled her obligations, Cerise once again took to the skies, this time soaring towards the city of Pluma D'or. On Cerise's more honest days, she'd admit to herself that she was rather scared by the large city, so much larger than the little, empty village she called her home. But there was something about being near it, something about its proximity that quite simply thrilled her. Maybe it was the forbidden nature of it all. She had seen it and felt its presence everyday of her life, but she could never journey through its streets nor greet the Cloudis living there. Cerise was, for all intents and purposes, an outcast since birth.

    She knew what went on in Pluma D'or. She was not in any sense oblivious like the city's residents were, and she knew why she should never want to go there. But she couldn't help the longing she felt, the longing for complacency and ignorance, and, though she didn't let herself think about it, companionship. How long had she been alone now? Four years? Five? She no longer knew and was rather sure she didn't want to.

    Cerise stared out at the city, mindful to keep well out of sight. Her mother and her had sat in this very same spot all those years ago. She watched as various Cloudis- so, so small from her view perched up high in the trees- bustled about, completing their various duties assigned to them by their Serpen overlords. She envied them, truly she did, for while they had so little, less than they'd ever even realize, at least they weren't alone.
  3. While Cerise longed for the companionship that their small districts held, Aleta often craved the imagined wind beneath her wings. As if they were ready to fly, she gave them an experimental flap, but her feathers were sodden with water, making for poor flight assistants. With a sigh, she pulled the braid from her hair to dump the wavy locks under the water. She cleaned her hands before her claws dug into her hair, never scratching her. She'd done plenty of that as a child while trying to rid her hair of contaminates.

    When she felt sufficiently less dirty, Aleta stood, rubbing her head with the towel to dry her hair so she could sleep. Not for the first time that day, her eyes caught the massive forest outside of Ploma D'or. It was truly a magnificent sight, one that the Cloudis adored from afar. Only a select few had been allowed on the outskirts to chop down trees. However, trees seemed to sprout like weeds, and the efforts made by the Cloudis and their axes never showed, belittled by the entirety of the forest.

    Something seemed different about it, but Aleta couldn't quite place her finger on it. Winding her hair into a loose braid again, she walked to the edge of the fence, staring out at the trees. She wanted to see what it was like, but she knew the Serpens would never approve of such a thing. Only the strongest of the Cloudi were selected to go out, and Aleta could never hope to match the strength of those male Cloudis who took after the largest and strongest birds. She was strong, but they seemed to be otherworldly in their strength.

    It made her sigh, her wings shaking liquid from the feathers. Her claws tapped the stone in careful and rebellious thought. Would anyone miss her if she went out, just for a short time? Surely the Serpens wouldn't notice. After all, she was done with her work, even though she hadn't found as many precious gems as she had before. The day was going to dwindle to night soon, and her mother would be calling her for a meal. Aleta's brow furrowed as she thought about what to do. What if she just went on the outside of the wall and didn't go anywhere? She could feel the grass under her feet but she couldn't say that she had strayed very far.

    She just wanted even a sliver of freedom. Surely the Serpens would understand that.

    It was that carefully planned thought that made Aleta look around to assure herself no one was watching before she bunched her legs and jumped over the fence. The long grass curled between her clawed toes and she smiled. The ground inside Ploma D'or was tramped down and dusty, but just a few inches away from the wall, it was gentle and wavy. How could the Serpens not want them to be out here? She knew outside Ploma D'or was dangerous, but was it so bad that they couldn't go around?

    She wiggled her claws in the grass, her wings flapping heavily. There was no breeze, but the grass waved beneath her feet from the whoosh of her wings. There was the plea in her mind to fly, but she didn't know how. No Cloudi did.
  4. Her perch up high in the Cayxam trees grew rather tedious in a short while, as Cerise was not one to stay put for any length of time. She tucked a few of the silver colored leaves into her pocket- they were highly useful as pain relievers when brewed into tea, so she tried to keep a supply on hand- before she prepared to head home. Before she could even takeoff, however, something caused her to stop her motions, and she turned back to face the city.

    Years from now, she still wouldn't be able to tell you why she didn't leave, why that feeling, so strong and so powerful, caused her to completely change her path, not only in location, but in life, though she didn't know it at the time. She'd always been in awe of the city, always curious of the nature of life inside its walls and enraptured by the day to day lives of its people. Yet, she had never wanted so badly to get closer to it, to touch its walls and peek in at its secrets, at least not before this day. But she did, she wanted it so bad, and the city was practically calling to her.

    It was reckless and it was rash, and more importantly it was just plain stupid, and Cerise knew all of this. She could list off all the reasons why she couldn't get closer: It was dangerous, she could get caught, but most likely was that she would never want to leave. If she flew too close to the sun, Cerise knew that she was asking to be burned. But that feeling, it was drumming deep inside her, pulling her towards an invisible end.

    Cerise was well aware of all of these things, but she was also impulsive; she never even stopped to ponder any of her reasons. The city was just so close, and damn if she wasn't careful. She descended down under the forest canopy and back into the smaller, second sky, formed by the branches of trees that stood dozens of feet above the forest floor. She flew low in the trees, so there was less chance of her being spotted but she could still maintain a better speed than she ever could have walking.

    She reached the edge of the forest, mere yards away from the walls of Pluma D'or, and she stopped and just stood there, gazing in awe at the larger than life walls surrounding the city. The majority of Pluma D'or was both protected and imprisoned by a large stone wall, though the front entrance sported an area of significantly smaller chain-link fence, there simply to allow easier access to the city for reinforcements in the case of a revolt. Cerise inched closer quietly, reaching her hand out to touch the stone walls, almost reverent in her ministrations. Suddenly she heard and slight jingling sound and a thud, and she quickly jumped into small cluster of bushes. Peering up, she saw the source of the noise, a silver haired girl who had appeared to have jumped the fence.

    Cerise was beyond panicked, and could literally hear the blood pounding in her ears. She forced herself to hold still and keep her breathing quiet. She had no idea what this girl would do if she discovered Cerise's location, and she really had no inclination to find out. She pulled herself deeper into the brush and quietly watched the girl in order to see what she'd do.
  5. Aleta couldn't keep the joy contained any longer. She laughed, taking a few more steps from the fence. The grass grew progressively softer and longer, curling past her roughened ankles and tickling her legs. It was so beautiful and wondrous, and she could never understand why her fellow Cloudis didn't want this. The few allowed to leave never talked about the gentle flora or how tall the trees were, scraping the sky and touching clouds. The Serpens never said how the wind in their hair was fresh and pure. It was lovely, and Aleta wanted it forever.

    However, it was not meant to be that day. She knew she had to drag herself away from the freedom she so desperately desired. The Serpens would find out she'd done this. They always seemed to know everything, even if any Cloudi tried to hide it. So when Aleta turned back and jumped back over the fence, it came as no surprise to see a slender, female Serpen waiting for her. She was quite the beautiful specimen, according to the other Serpens. She had long black hair, always done up in an immaculate braided bun. Her eyes were bright yellow slits, just like the reptiles her people hailed from. Her skin was tan and she had a long, deep red silk skirt paired with a thin, nearly see through top. Right off, from the outfit to the dark and questioning gaze, Aleta knew she was Vamilan's mate, Nasilla.

    "Hello, Mistress Nasilla." Aleta, like all other Cloudis, was to address any Serpen in such a way, even if Aleta disliked the title.

    "Aleta," she purred, a strange sound coming from a snake woman, "what were you doing beyond the fence?"

    "I just... wanted to know what the grass felt like, Mistress." Aleta, despite being almost a half foot taller than Nasilla, cowed under the bright eyed gaze as Nasilla stepped closer.

    "I see. It's very soft, isn't it?" Nasilla smiled, but it seemed a predatory expression as she watched the bird squirm under her gaze. "Have you had your fill of the outside?" She watched Aleta almost shake her head before rethinking it and giving another nod. "Good girl. Now, remember, the outside is a dangerous place, even from such a sort distance. You must be sure never to leave. I... We... cannot protect you out there. Vamilan and I would hate to lose you." The almost-touching sentiment was accompanied by a real touch on Aleta's cheek as Nasilla grazed her hand along the Cloudi's still dirty face. "Finish your wash, my dear. I was very pleased with your pull today."

    "You... You were?" Cloudis didn't receive praise often, and the idea that she'd done well was enough to chase away the thoughts of the outside, for now. It showed on her face, and Nasilla was pleased to see the innocence replace the longing.

    "Yes, I haven't seen a sapphire in quite some time. If you find more, perhaps we can arrange a... bonus for your hard work?" Aleta's eyes widened and her nod this time was vigorous. "Good. Run along and finish your wash. I am eager to see what you pull tomorrow." With that, she almost slithered into the night with the way her body swung while remaining silent as she walked. Aleta watched her, possibly a little too close, her head now filled with ideas of what bonuses Nasilla could give her. She didn't even notice the familiar, yet foreign smell of the nearby Cloudi, so engrossed was she in washing her wings and body.