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I wrote this for a game, but I think it stands fairly well on its own, or at least as well as a somewhat rambly first-person narrative can. I think it's worth a read, if you enjoy fantasy. The game is one created by my roommate A; it's his own high-fantasy setting, and one I added depth to with this story. I may expand the story, adding details as necessary to support the character I'm going to play or actually turning this into a polished story. For now it's fine as-is, and he read it and approved, so I'll be playing her soon.


At the request of my master, Onothium-ari Rhyalin, I, Kiryana Nhiria, have undertaken to transcribe the events of my life to date, before I leave to pursue my studies in more depth. I am a Dancer-on-Air, an Onothium-maro, and must seek out others who call the winds in order to further my work, as instructed by the various masters here in Lequara. With luck and a strong breeze at my back, I will find them in Sar Sagoran. I have heard rumors- whispers on the wind - that a great dancer once lived there, one who sought ever upward. Perhaps I will find his notes; perhaps he will have kept a careful journal of his discoveries, as I have been encouraged to do by master Rhyalin.

I was born in Lequara, and other than pleasure-trips with my family, I have never left it; I have never lived elsewhere. Surrounded by the majestic beauty of our trees and towers, why would I want to? My mother has focused her studies on the soldier's life; she rides in the arkestcorps and trains other soldiers of Lequara. My father served on the Council of Seven for our district when I was a child, and has enjoyed a long life in public service. It is difficult to write dispassionately of my family; they mean a great deal to me. My father's family is politically connected. Perhaps I will write more of this later; it has little bearing on my early life.

One or the other of my parents was nearly always home when I was a child; my mother would be gone for weeks at a time, but my father could set his schedule to match hers, although sometimes I had to sit through meetings he could not avoid. I learned Lequaran politics at my father's knee. I would entertain myself in a nearby chamber, sometimes with other children for company, more often alone. I remember dancing in an antechamber, but because there was no music I was singing and clapping to make a song for myself, and I disturbed some sort of very important gathering. My father was not at all pleased with me, and I learned to dance more quietly.

When I was still quite small, I made friends with my mother's arkest, and got to go along for flights. My mother was consummately skilled, which is perhaps why I was never frightened, even when I could hardly walk. My mother says now that it was my fearlessness at great heights and the way I danced to even faint accidental rhythms that made her decide to take me to the Zotaoist Plaigosta. She saw the power nascent within me and foresaw something of my future, so before I could read and write I found myself apprenticed to the Onothium masters.

My education was as one would expect. I learned to read and to write among other Lequaran children, and I know our ancient dialect as well as the trade tongue and smatterings of a few other languages. While I am quick to learn some things, I am not overly quick with words. So much of the knowledge I have sought throughout my life is in movement, touch, breath; little of it in words. Even the written works of other onothium-maro are hard to interpret; they are poetry and song more than anything.

In my early years of training, before my calling manifested, I was often given their works to study, and found it very frustrating that they refused to use plain language. Then, when the power came to me, I found I could not either. My own notes, written in early adolescence, would be of little use to anyone starting out, though I remember the experiences I was recording vividly.

from finger-tip to feather-tip
it presses, presses
I swim in a sea of air


how distance has changed for me -
the arkests overhead, too high to hear
caress me with their passing

I was never much of a poet, but I found the exercise good. It was always easier to learn how to move with the winds - how a tiny breeze might call me to let a hand float along it, a gust might bring a jump. And then to reverse it, dancing to call the wind instead of in response to it. To me, this is the heart of aeromancy. I learn from the air, all of its humors and shapes, and then I draw on mana and on the movements I have learned to call air to my bidding. This is not quite as those who study other elements describe their arts, but it is how I have learned mine.

For several years, I did nothing but study my art. My parents were very proud of me. My mother would joke that the arkest corps might have lost a promising rider in me, but that Lequara would gain a powerful Onothium if I studied hard enough. She was never overawed by my powers, though, even as my control improved. Her own mastery of her soldier's life has been an inspiration for me; though not an adept, it is to her I owe my single-mindedness and desire to perfect my knowledge - not to mention any athletic talents I may possess, and my skill with the bow. My father, by contrast, often told me I needed to be able to move in normal society as well as among other adepts; though I often saw his efforts as distractions from my true work, he reminded me that there is more to life than mana-flows. It is to him I owe what skills I have in persuading others to my will and charming them, though, compared to him, I have never been other than socially graceless.

Some years ago, approaching womanhood, I chose to apply myself to the Path Skyward. I surprised no one by doing so; after all, I had already proven myself as a budding Onothium-mora, and my love of flight had been evident since before I could walk. I had spent years studying the air's movements, currents, moods and whims to the exclusion of nearly everything else. What else would I want than to ride the winds under my own power?

The next part of my story is more difficult to write, and it is only with master Rhyalin's assurance that this will not be made public until far in the future that I can write it at all. I do leave to seek new knowledge, but that is not the only reason.

I had the first hints that all was not well when I reached the first stage in the Path Skyward. I danced home, the breeze of my passing fluttering every leaf on every bough and making airy patterns of dewdrops. People stared at my new wings, floating behind me as they were; I cut a strange figure, so young to be on the Path! My father took me out that evening, in a dress he had had made for me, an airy blue-green dress that wrapped to leave space for my wings. He took me to the finest restaurant in town, and we went to a musical performance, where I shivered but was unwilling to cover my new wings with a cloak or shawl.

My father seemed so proud of me that night that I let myself ignore the way he placed me so that others would notice, the people he introduced me to. I pretended not to realize he was using me to increase his own status. It bothered me, deep in the night when I could not distract myself; if he had asked, I would have done whatever I could have. He was, after all, my father. But I ignored it, and threw myself into my studies all the harder; if I spent less time than I had previously with my father, and he was more insistent about inviting me to join him, I doubt anyone but my mother noticed.

I'm fairly sure she did, because she offered me a bed in the room off hers at the barracks; she must have feared tension at home. I gladly moved into what had been a valet's chamber; I spent little enough time at home anyway, and by the time I fell into bed each night I was so exhausted from my efforts that I never minded the noises of the arkests and their riders. The barracks were a tier above the town proper; the day I could spiral slowly down rather than asking a rider to carry me was a good one. The riders never minded, of course; having an aeromancer living among them was a great convenience, if only because a stiff breeze makes mucking out stables much less of a chore.

I'm writing all this to avoid the unpleasantness, but my time grows short, so I will face it.

Lequaran political life is complicated; families ascend and descend amidst rumors and myriad complex schemes. A button left undone at dinner can signal disfavor, and the one who has fallen from grace might suffer serious ill fortune afterward. Assassination is never even a whispered word; too many people are listening. We are prone to music, to dancing, to laughter and joy; but we are also prone to back-stabbing, to graft, to petty advancement of one's family over others by any means. It is only because of my family's connections that I was able to pursue my studies for so long without arranging for special gifts to important counselors to avoid public service. If my family were any better-connected, I would have been married by now, most likely. We do not arrange marriages, not openly, but I would have been strongly encouraged to find a young man of a good family.

Instead, I brought them prestige with my feathers.

My father used my new status as an adept of some accomplishment - and a young one, though this is evidence not of my talent but of the single-minded determination I inherited from, as it turns out, both of my parents - to enhance his own standing. He was a master at turning anything to use, and contrived to have it known that, having accomplished my goal (which I had not, and still have not), I would be turning my eye at long last toward romance. He arranged social occasions I could not avoid without damaging the family's reputation, and I did my duty.

And then the scandal hit, in whispers. A long-time rival of my father's had a bad bout of ill-fortune. His business ventures began to fail. Anyone he allied with had... bad luck. His wife left him, claiming he had assaulted her in a drunken rage, though he denied it. Rumors traveled swiftly that he had frequented houses of ill repute, and that he had been seen cursing at a shopkeeper. The decline had begun, apparently inevitable; a part of Lequaran society we are not proud of perhaps, but when someone behaves badly - all the while protesting innocence - it is no surprise others turn from them.

Except that I knew it was false. My father was behind it, and the standing my ascension had brought him had been just enough to allow him to move against his enemy. It crystallized, then; all the times my father had come home cheerful though things seemed to be going badly, the many occasions when we had profited from someone else's misfortune. The votes that seemed to be against him until they were counted.

My father is - was - is an Ishpada. I am sure of it, in the depths of my hollow bones, to the tips of my toes, I am certain he is of the shadowed path. Deception is a way of life in Lequara, for far too many people; it should not have surprised me. Perhaps he thought I already knew, for he never went to much effort to disguise his joy at a job well done when an opponent's life was in ruins.

The realization shook me. I spared little thought for the man he was ruining, as he was no innocent and certainly did not merit my concern, but still felt that my own happiness and success in life had been built upon a lie. I have enjoyed more privilege than most Nhiliad children, even here in Lequara; if not for my father's manipulations, there is no way I could have devoted my life so entirely to study.

Then he made a mistake. I don't know how he failed; perhaps he grew over-confident. The man he targeted was seen to be exiting the public baths, having just had an altercation with a Livoshi bath attendant, while he was sitting in judgement on a civil case. It was plainly impossible and his supporters seized on it as evidence of foul play. There were too many witnesses. Seers were brought in, the truth was sought. Fast as a whirlwind; the public turned back toward the victim, undeserving as he was. Even his wife came back to him.

My father might have judged that he could not withstand the powers of the oracle brought to ascertain the truth, and fled; on the other hand, perhaps a more powerful person found him, and did away with him. I have no way of knowing. In any case, he disappeared, and even without the seer's corroboration, this was plain evidence of his guilt to many, perhaps most, Lequarans.

Zotoaist Plaigosta, long known to be incorruptible (she always said dishonesty was dangerous for her kind, and too much trouble besides), was brought in to determine the truth. For some reason - perhaps because of her visions of me, long ago - she sent me a message, secretly. She foresaw great ill for me if I stayed, and so I have resolved to leave; with luck, I will leave on a borrowed arkest before the matter is certain. Otherwise they will come for me; I have been on my father's arm often enough, this past year, to be marked as an ally. I fear the winds will not save me, and in any case I will never sleep again if I have to witness the condemnation of my neighbors and friends. Better to leave now, on a pretext that happens to be true; better to seek my fortune elsewhere, at least until I hear that Lequara is safe for me again.

I have friends here, mostly among my colleagues and the soldiery. My mother has determined to stay; her career is her life, and she will fly escort with me for half a day, and then return. She says she can weather the storm, and that no one will come for her in the night; she says she is well known to have no interest in politics at all. I hope that moving into the barracks full-time will protect her as well as she thinks it will; it's hard to imagine too many assassins braving the heights and a flock of angry arkests to get at her, but a soldier's life is dangerous.

There are no guarantees; the winds blow where they will, and a storm can blow up unseen only to vanish without loosing a drop. It is enough that for now, my path takes me away, and I will go with a good breeze at my back.
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December 2010

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