(In which I test out parts of my shiny new magic system. Untitled because I don't feel like naming a fic after myself [or my nickname at least]).
Some could not—and would not—agree on the exact manner in which humankind attained self-powered flight.
Perhaps it started with the sorcerer telekinetics, movers of bodies and air—or the wind-bottling witches, trappers and releasers of magic—or the momentum mages, launching themselves away from the earth—
No one knows.
Always, there have been those who dreamed of the sky.
To fly, to fly—not only in short bursts, not only with great skill and concentration, not only for those with magic lurking in their hearts. To fly as easily as one might walk, jog, run, to be a bat, a bird, an insect, a human, a human in the sky.
They could not and would not agree on the exact manner in which humankind might attain self-powered flight.
So they split off, into branches, into clusters. All growing off the same tree. Reaching ever higher.
Who touched the clouds first?
We do not know.
Every branch touched the clouds, eventually. But only some are of note.
Here is one branch. It is sturdy and spare, and the bark on it is the colour of iron and ash. It is not the prettiest branch, not one that would catch your eye. It arches up and up and up, sometimes crooked, sometimes wayward, always striving.
If you only took a moment to look, you would the see the tiny markings circling it, round and round and round thousands of years of solid wood.
Legers, the magicless folk. There is much one can do with ingenuity and innovation and millenniums of knowledge.
Wings of metal, wings of wood, wings of reinforced cloth. Balloons, blades that spun and spun, things that roared and things that whirred. Stumbling, falling, breaking bones. Then picking themselves up and trying again.
When the first of them to fly came down from the sky, she laughed and laughed and laughed and laughed.
(Was it worth it?)
(Yes, was all she said.)
Another day, another branch. This one is short and slender. It exits from the trunk and shoots straight up into the sky, almost perfunctory in its rush.
Look again. A thousand little twigs and shoots branch off from it.
Merchants and Traders, those who dealt with the shadowy figures of dreams, trading, bartering. A coin for a healing, a hand for an escape, a year off one's lifetime for a year given to another.
"What price do you ask for flight?" asked one, then another, then another.
Some paid. Some did not.
It was the small sort of revolution, growing in little leaps and increments. The more you wanted something, the more it cost.
"I agree to the price."
And that was all there was to it.
Yet another branch. This one is the intricate knotted wood of age and tradition and barriers, almost vain in its shameless complexity. Strong and good for climbing, but who would ever set feet on such a thing?
Enchanters. Those whose hearts were sustained by magic. A single working was all they had in them. They made the best of it.
They would not have it any other way.
One laid out capes upon capes in an empty field, and enchanted to be as the skin of a bird. Slip in—one is winged. Slip out—one is human. One turned gravity upon itself, made a forest where the winds responded to every wayward whim. One enchanted shoes upon shoes to grow little wings around the heel.
Enchantment was an art, but a limited art. They would not have it any other way.
A fourth branch, twisting, the pale green of youth—of those who would not settle for mere flight, magic-aided. Of those who wanted wings. Of those who wanted a new human.
Sorcerers could manipulate human flesh easily enough. Perhaps, in time, they would learn to touch a genome, whatever it was within the human body that passed down through generations and generations. But it was not a sorcerer who made a winged human. It was a wizard—word-weaver, spellwriter, orator.
It started, as many things do, with brothers who disagreed.
"It should be as the wings of bats," said the first brother. "Humans are not meant to be feathered, and that would be more work anyhow. If a human has wings, those wings should be those of another mammalian creature. I ask of you, change our arms to the wings of bats.
"Why not birds?" demanded the second brother. "Ask any leger off the street for the name of a flying creature—how many would you go through before one gave an answer that was not a bird? Birds are the masters of the air, diverse in their flight. Change our arms to the wings of birds."
"Is there anything so wrong about caring for beauty?" ventured the third brother. "The wings of insects are not the strongest or the swiftest, but they are swift and strong enough, and there is a great beauty in them. It matters not if their blood flows red. Please change our arms to the wings of insects."
The last brother, the one with the the words that would fulfill their wishes ready on his tongue, narrowed his eyes in contemplation.
"I offer you a compromise," he said. "I will change your arms to whatever wings you wish, and the arms of all those who follow you as well. I expect there to be a fairly even divide. There is no need for this argument."
And the other three brothers agreed, and the fourth spoke the words that would thin their bones and expand their chests, strengthen some muscles and weaken others, improve senses and reflexes and let arms become wings. The wings of a free-tailed bat, of a harpy eagle, of a blue-winged demoiselle.
But this branch, eventually, forked into three.
In the end, there was in fact need for argument. Each brother took their like-winged followers and left the others, settling in cave-ridden mountains, a soaring jungle, a land of hills and valleys and lakes.
And so the demons, angels, and fairies were born.
The last brother became a traveller, cycling among them all, and it was he who penned their tale.
Another branch on a tree full of them, another branch touching the clouds.
Always, there have been those who dreamed of the sky.
And they joined together and made their dream reality.