I can’t believe it is the last week of my Worldbuilding class already! It feels like time is going by too fast lately. But at least at this point in time I am reading and writing regularly, and that makes me happy.
This week’s assignment was about creating governments and religions:
Write a short scene—no more than 2000 words—that features a political or religious institution from your setting. As you did with magic & technology and monsters & aliens, give it a reason for being, limits to its power, and an emotional/story context.
This piece contains a race I have been fiddling with in my world’s lore for a long time – the Avar. I doodled a few attempts, but drawing bird-people is always iffy. It is very hard to not make them look cartoony or cheesy. So I looked online. The best example of how I picture the Avar, is the Tengu from Guild Wars (the picture above is particularly from Guild Wars II). Minus the tusks, this is pretty close to home I envision bird-people.
There was a lot to explain in this piece and a number of characters. So I hope the details are not too heavy or hard to follow.
Lakeerae’s eyes streamed with tears from the biting cold wind as the mohan broke through the top layer of clouds and the floating city of Erkada came into view.
Giant golden spires reached up to varying heights from the surface of the upper part of the floating city, shrouded in swirling clouds that slinked among their peaks. Her teary eyes followed the spires to their base and fixed upon the area below the city level – jagged clumps of dirt hung there and it looked like the entire city had been ripped right out of the ground and had taken much of that ground with it. The lower area appeared to be a network of caves woven throughout the earthen lower section. Terraces dotted the many entryways, and growing things covered the terraces.
Lakeerae marvelled at the fantastic floating city. It made her previously imagined picture of Erkada seem pale in comparison. It was all one city, but it looked like two separate worlds all of their own held together by whatever magic made the giant structure float above the clouds.
The chilly wind bit at her face and stung her eyes, bringing her back to herself, and she wondered how birds dealt with it.
That thought made her glance to her right where Sir Gidyen, the hawk who was her protector, flew beside the great mohan. The mohan easily had a wingspan ten times that of Sir Gidyen, giving it adequate size and strength to carry Lakeerae and her wolf, Keeshan. Keeshan shook uncontrollably, unused to having his paws off the ground. The girl stroked the wolf’s neck fur, a spot that usually calmed him, but not this time.
Are we almost there? he asked through their telepathic bond, keeping his eyes tightly shut.
The wind whipped past her ears and she knew she would have to shout over it to be heard. Yes, soon now, she thought back to him.
The mohan touched down gently onto a flat, open area at the edge of the floating city. It looked specifically designed for the takeoff and landing of giant birds. A tall tower on their right side housed several birds of both giant and normal size, smelling of hay and feathers.
Three humanoid figures stood back and to the left of their landing spot. Each wore a long robe with a cowl covering its head and a small gold symbol on the breast, the only visible difference between the three being their colors of their robes – one was dark red, one dark blue, and one black. They stood without moving.
Lakeerae did not hurry after her mohan landed. She dismounted and thanked the creature, stroking the side of its head and whispering to it. Then, she collected Keeshan’s trembling body and set him on the ground, where he immediately opened his eyes, stretched, and nuzzled her affectionately.
Thank Leana! he sighed with relief.
Sir Gidyen did not perch on her shoulder. Though she thought it strange, as that was his favorite spot, she did not delay longer. Keeshan protectively at her side, surveying the situation as if his trembling of moments before had never happened, Lakeerae approached the three figures.
“Greetings, Lakeerae,” one said with a deep voice from within the shadow of his dark red cowl. “We have been expecting you.” All she could see beneath the cowl was his glowing, gold-rimmed eyes and the merest hint of a wide shadowed beak. Two long feathered strands flowed from either side of his beak, looking much like a drooping moustache. She thought he looked much like an owl. “I am Sahn-Leir, political leader of the Avar and head of the Enlightened.” Two hands shrouded in the robe’s sleeves rose before him and he touched his forehead to them in a respectful gesture.
“Leana spoke to me of your coming,” the figure draped in dark blue added, speaking of the Goddess of Nature. A longer, more graceful beak lined with black, like that of a swan’s, poked out from his cowl’s darkness and his glittering black eyes met her’s. Feathered, white hands reached forward and clasped hers, strong but soft to the touch, like down. “I am Rra-Reis, spiritual leader of the Devoted.”
“Never in our history has a human been to Erkada,” the third said, her voice feminine but sharp. Her tone was serious, her dark, bird-of-prey eyes flashed dangerously from within the black cowl, and her sharp beak snapped shut with a harsh clack to emphasize her point. Her arms remained crossed before her.
“Forgive Err-Sook, she is in charge of the Peace-keeping of Erkada,” Rra-Reis said.
“She takes her position most seriously, as we all do,” Sahn-Leir added.
“I’ll be forthcoming, I’m not entirely sure why I am here, except that Lady Leana asked it of me,” Lakeerae replied. Keeshan bumped against her leg as a silent reassurance.
“As the wielder of Magefire, you are the one the stories tell of,” Rra-Reis said, his voice edged with reverence. “The one who will mend the Sunstone and heal our land.”
“All of which surely makes little sense to you right now,” Sahn-Leir said. His eyes flashed with understanding. “That is why our first stop is the Hall of Records, to see Tai-Feht, head Keeper of Books.
“Surely we can let her rest first?” Rra-Reis interjected. “She has been travelling, long to get here and longer yet from her home before that.”
“Time is short,” Err-Sook snapped.
“Patience. Rra-Reis is correct,” Sahn-Leir said in agreement, holding up two hands mottled in various shades of grey feathers. “Forgive me, Lakeerae. We are not used to visitors. First, you should be allowed to acclimate yourself, restore your center, feed your body. Then, you can feed your mind.”
“I appreciate your hospitality,” Lakeerae replied with a bow of her head.
Rra-Reis’ eyes glittered with pleasure at her display of respect. “Walk with us. We will take you to where you may rest and recharge.”
“Thank you. Only… I am not sure what happened to Sir Gidyen. He was with us until we landed…” Lakeerae’s voice trailed off.
Err-Sook looked interested for the first time, her eyes going wide. “Sere-Gidyen? He is with you?”
“Show yourself, deserter!” Err-Sook shouted into the air.
Lakeerae’s confusion only grew as Sir Gidyen glided from the aviary behind her. He opened his wings to slow himself and hovered above the ground several feet away. Then, he began to shimmer, like the stones beneath him had grown hot enough to radiate that heat back into the air. Then, he began to grow. Only a moment later, he stood on two legs as a humanoid, his face still very much its normal hawk appearance, but his wings had shrunk to arms, with only a small amount of feathers remaining on them.
Sir Gidyen looked from Lakeerae to Err-Sook. “Surprise,” he said softly, the smallest glimmer of humor in his dark eyes.
“You dare show up here again?” Err-Sook snarled.
“Peace, sister,” Rra-Reis pleaded. He placed a calming hand on Err-Sook’s arm, only to have it angrily shaken off. In the process, the Peace-keeper’s black hood fell back, revealing her white-feathered face, a face that very much resembled that of a giant eagle.
“I hate to disappoint you, but I didn’t desert,” Sere-Gidyen replied, narrowing his eyes at Err-Sook. “I was sent away, in secret, to protect Lakeerae and make sure that she discovered her Magefire and eventually came her to fulfill her destiny.”
“Sent? By whom? Who knew she was the wielder of Magefire?” Sahn-Leir asked, his voice calm but curious.
“Leana of course,” Sere-Gidyen replied. “She has been watching over Lakeerae since before she was born.”
Lakeerae swooned, light-headed, and Sere-Gidyen steadied her, taking her by the elbows. “Whoa, girl. Careful there.” He gave a severe look to the other Avar. “Can we get her somewhere to rest? I think she’s had enough for now.”
Rra-Reis nodded and signaled for the others to follow him.
“You knew, all along?” Lakeerae asked finally, holding tightly to Sere-Gidyen’s arm – his arm. She shook the fog from her head again.
“Yes, but I wasn’t able to say anything, only protect you and keep you going in along the correct path.”
Lakeerae nodded, her mind numb with sudden revelations. Discovering the Magefire within her had been difficult. Being spoken to by Leana, the Goddess of Nature had been difficult. Learning she was expected to accomplish things that would change the face of Dadreon had been difficult. But nothing could compare to seeing the hawk who had been her companion since she was old enough to remember standing before her, taller than her, and wearing a loose outfit with the same symbol these other Avar wore.
The symbol was a balanced scale, stitched in gold, with three wavy vertical lines on the left plate and three wavy horizontal lines on the right side. “What does that symbol mean?” she asked.
Sere-Gidyen looked down to the symbol at his breast and back at Lakeerae. “It is the symbol of the Avar. It signifies the things we value most: wisdom, control, and balance. They are the virtues the noble classes represent.” When he said this, he motioned towards the three who walked ahead of them. “The Enlightened symbolize wisdom; the Peace-keepers, control; and the Devoted, balance. They uphold and maintain everything we value.”
“What about you?” Lakeerae asked him, feeling strangely like she was learning about him for the first time.
“Me? I am no noble. I merely carry out the will of the Peace-keepers. My caste serve as guardians and lawmen.”
Lakeerae nodded and looked around her. The city functioned like any other she had previously seen – the Avar went about their business around her as they passed through a busy marketplace. All manner of bird-like humanoids walked the streets, sold goods, and bought goods. There were other hawks, standing stoically at the edge of everything. Blue jays called their wares and tempted passersby. Hummingbirds flitted to and fro, looking in a hurry to be someplace. Blue herons, mallards, cardinals, robins, and wrens mingled among them as owls, swans, and eagles, who wore robes similar to her companions, looked on.
“What am I doing here?” she asked to no one in particular. Sere-Gidyen squeezed her arms reassuringly and Keeshan nuzzled his head into her hip. She patted them both absently as she tried to wrap her mind around everything.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
This story and all related material are the original works of Awaiting the Muse and Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti. All rights reserved.
Awaiting the Muse by Effy J. Roan AKA Effraeti is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at https://awaitingthemuse.wordpress.com/.