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You will leave this place.
You will fly until your wings break,
until your lungs burn,
until your eyes are blinded by the dust and the wind.
You may never come back to us,
and if you try, we will kill you.
The words felt like teeth in my heart and I could say nothing. All eyes were closed. None looked upon me, though ears listened to make sure I had left. It was not a fit of anger that made me change into my seraphic form. In it, I could fly farther with bigger muscles and larger lungs as a giant serpent of black with six resplendent wings. My command was to leave, and so I did. I left my family, my home, my lovers.
All gone, and hating me.
Familiar canyons, valleys, and ridgeways soon melted into unfamiliar lands. I flew in a straight line, gaining altitude to bypass even the highest peaks. The air was thin and my eyes hurt, so I closed them and flew blindly. There was nothing I would run into at that altitude and it didn’t matter where I went. I think I slept on the wing, for I would suddenly wake in a different place, still airborne. My eyes wept, the tears freezing on my thickly-scaled cheeks and still I didn’t notice. My stomach cramped and growled with hunger – I don’t know how many days I hadn’t eaten, flying among the clouds. Up at that altitude the sun had been fierce and bright. It made my blood course through my veins like a river in flood, speeding my metabolism and working my flesh to death. When I started to fall from the sky I was barely conscious, and the impact upon the water was the only thing that saved my body from breaking completely.
Suddenly awake and submerged, my great head breached the water’s surface, the cold fluid waking up my exhausted senses. There was still ice chipping off my face as I gasped for air. My six wings were sodden and too heavy to maneuver the torrent so I dove, seeking the rocky riverbed. I gripped the stones stuck within the mud to pull myself slowly to shore, despite the current. There, upon the wet sand, I lay for a long time catching my breath, drying off, and warming up. I was delirious, hardly aware, though I do recall the cries of vultures and carrion birds circling me. I must have reeked of death. One, bolder than the others, began to peck at my eyelid, searching for the soft flesh beneath it. On reflex I snapped at it. The bird was down my gullet before it was fully dead, and I lay still again.
I was not bothered by the carrion birds after that.
I cannot tell how long I lay there on that muddy river bank. Days and weeks all seemed the same to me. Opening my carmine eyes every few days, I looked around myself at times. Scrubby turf lined the lips of the broad river that I’d fallen into. Reeds and plush grasses grew in thick and verdant patches, and in between them were jutting sandstone rocks and pebbled terrain that sank soon into mud near the water. Insects buzzed and droned around me during the day, and crickets and the little mice chirped in the evening. When I lifted my head, I could see mountains cupping the valley I’d fallen into, looming up like rusty teeth over the flat, dry terrain. And looming over those ridges of rock were light and beautiful clouds speaking of an abundance of water.
It was a miracle, now that I think about it, that no humans came upon me during my muddy convalescence. Fortune had plunged me into one of the wild areas where the nearest thing to danger were the hyenas. The giggle and shriek of them greeted my ears every time I moved. I was getting stronger day by day, enough to snap up and eat any of the stupid animals that ventured near enough. In time I lifted myself completely free of the water and began to crawl like a worm for shelter. I crawled for a very long time until I found a deep cave. In this place I hauled my long, weak body, which by now was painful to move. My once glorious form was disgustingly emaciated, the flesh melted away, feathers dry and ruined on a body large enough to have wrapped about an elephant and suffocate within my coils. In the dark of the cave I curled up and slept. I had drunk enough by the river to last for weeks, but I was still terribly hungry.
No creature entered my cave. They smelled the scent of my great body and the odor of my starvation on my exhaled breath. In truth, I would have lunged blindly for anything that had walked inside. Perhaps I did – I was not always lucid during this time. I remember waking to find lumps within my length, swallowed animals, fur stuck between my needle-like teeth even though I couldn’t remember having fed.
It served, though. I recovered my strength and left the cave to bask in the sun, stretching all of my wings towards the warm rays. I was slowly coming alive again, and as my flesh filled out I returned to the river to drink and to hunt. The hippos were at first too strong and dangerous with their tusks, but I learned that if I caught them off guard I was able to overcome their ferocity. They served as my main source of flesh, and soon enough those Bursa escort bayan great, dangerous tusks littered the floor of my cave. I was proud of my decorations, setting them upright in rows along the interior, almost like a gate.
I grew fatter and more content to live as a beast. The past lay forgotten as my body let instinct take over. And over the course of decades I gladly let it happen. I felt I had no future among the Host, and I had already seized my place as the apex predator along this stretch of the river. All seemed right with the world in my basic, feral existence. The language and songs of my people faded from my memory. The way I had been looked at lovingly, spoken to kindly and with deference, it was all harder and harder to recall. The memories of the infant seraphim growing up into beautiful adults disappeared. It was all leaving me and I was pleased to let it.
That was not my world anymore.
I was no longer the prince of the Host; I was a monster, and I reveled in it.
And then the humans came to my lands.
I could smell them on the wind before I ever heard them, and so could the other animals. The stupid beasts approached the men to investigate, but few returned. That these stinking, chatty humans could hunt was the only thing that caught my interest. I had never smelled apes before, and I had never seen man. All I knew was that there was a troupe of them, and that they killing my prey.
It merited an investigation.
One evening when the desert was lit by a sliver of moon, I flew high up in the sky to see if I could find just where this community of humans was living. The search didn’t take long, for they had lit fires to ward off the night creatures. Such little creatures had discovered fire? I was amazed and flew a little lower. The scent of cooking food wafted up over their camp site as did the acrid odor of their bodies and their waste. They had animals with them too, things I’d later learn were horses. From this height I couldn’t make out the shape of these apes, but clearly they were haughty like lions. They didn’t eat every piece of their prey, leaving precious scraps behind for the scavengers to feast upon. Carrion birds and crows gave me a wide berth, though I could tell they were here to pick clean the rubbish left behind.
I didn’t need such arrogant, dirty animals living near my territory. They would surely scare away all the prey and leave their stink in every corner, keeping my food away until the next rains. And those weren’t due for months yet. No, they had to go. I grinned to myself – scattering predators was always amusing. My body tucked into itself like an enormous obsidian dart as I plunged down through the clouds, faster and faster towards that central fire. What I thought had been stones turned out to be huts, and this puzzled me for a moment, right before I landed upon the fire. Sparks exploded everywhere, burning wood and splinters showering all around me. The original fire died under my bulk and did me no harm, though one of the huts was crushed under the weight of my lower half. I plunged my wing knuckles into the sandy ground, punching a deep boom into the earth that reverberated for miles. Gripping claws grew from each of those joints, each a hand to claw at the sand and move me upon the ground. The horses, tied to the huts, screamed and reared to paw at their bindings. Some lucky few tore themselves free and bolted away. I’m sure I looked like a hellish god, and that suited me just fine.
The humans rushed out soon enough, screams and shouts greeting the first sight of my tremendous body. I knew I was terrifying – my cobra-like hood of feathers was out, my wings fluffed, my body inflated with air to make it look as big as possible. As if I needed any expansion – my body was already 30 meters long from nose to tail, my skull alone nearly the length of one of these human creatures. I lowered my great head and roared into their faces, my voice like a terrible storm issuing from a death hole lined with ivory spears. Some of the humans ran and I snapped at them with my jaws, savaging a hut to pieces. Those that didn’t run tried to make me go away with pathetic little stones or pieces of burning wood from the fire. Such brave acts frequently base themselves upon stupidity, and I quickly lunged my head at one of their yelling bodies. It was soft and dirty and it died right away. I threw it aside and attacked another, and another. They died so easily!
Soon the human camp was a waste, the survivors long gone into the desert night. An unfortunate horse had broken its leg in its struggle to untie itself, and I killed it and feasted upon it as I examined the bodies of these new human creatures. Their shape reminded me of my kin, and I flipped each one onto its stomach to check for any sign of wings, but there were none. They stank, they were stupid, and they were disfigured. I refused to eat them and simply left them where they had fallen.
Weighed down with Escort Antalya delicious horse flesh, I made my way back to the cave to think. These creatures had a language and they looked angelic in a very distant way. These must have been the creatures in question, the whole reason I had been exiled. I did not feel rage, but rather an almost righteous validation. I had been right! These stupid animals were in no way ready to be given control of the earth. They were delicate and cowardly. They stank and were wasteful. I gave no more thought to them for a long while.
That is, until they found me.
It had been several days and I was hungry – their horses had been the last thing I’d eaten. I was at the river, basking and looking for a likely target. The humans were downwind of me and must have been there before me because I hadn’t seen or heard anything arrive after I did. Suddenly my eyes lit on the carcass of a dead goat floating in the middle of the water. The river was distressingly barren that day, so I stupidly decided to take what I could get and descended upon it with a splash. Various marsh birds flew up from the reeds in a panic as I landed, and I ignored the rustling of the grasses nearby until it was too late.
Long, heavy spears suddenly rained down upon me, most of them hitting their mark. I panicked and looked to see what was throwing them, but they seemed to come from all around me, plunging into my sides, my wings, and my neck. One even landed in my open mouth and pierced my tongue. Blood, my blood, was everywhere. My nose was filled with the coppery smell of my own bleeding and I could no longer scent the air. I tried to fly but I couldn’t get far off the ground with my sodden wings before I fell onto the rocks, and so I crawled like a lizard back to my cave, leaving a clear bloody trail behind me.
The humans quickly found it and, rather than finish me off and risk injury, they waited outside my cave for days. I knew that if I approached them I might scare them off, but that it would only take one of the braver ones to throw one last spear and overburden my weak flesh with too many wounds. So in the darkness I famished and bled and waited, seething and craven with weakness. Outwitted. I dejectedly turned my great body deeper into the cave until I hit the back wall. My head lay itself in the sand and I waited for the end.
Perhaps it was at night that I noticed the shrill cries of bats through a small fissure right at the level of my eye. I couldn’t fit through it as I was, but perhaps in my smaller form I could. Summing up the very last of my energies I closed my eyes and willed my body to the change. The world grew larger and larger as I shrank. My wounds, though smaller, still hurt as they were now misaligned – where the spear had gone straight through my serpentine body, the path had changed when so too did the bones and muscles. My normally white flesh was marbled with bruises, lashes, and wounds. My mouth felt inflamed and tasted like copper. And as I changed this one last time to save myself, I felt something in my spirit break off and dissolve. At that moment I was too desperate and tired to understand what had happened, but in time I would learn of what I had sacrificed.
To my horror, even my smaller form couldn’t fit through the crevice. I pushed so hard that I’m sure my shoulders were scratched and partly flayed before I gave up, exhausted, hurting and hungry. The humans must have heard me utter something, or dared to come in after hearing silence for a long enough period. Perhaps they thought they’d come across a dead dragon, and I can only imagine their surprise upon discovering a small, wounded body that resembled theirs.
Dawn light reddened the inside of my closed eyelids when I awoke. I was moving, though I was laying on a cool surface. The scent of horses and the sound of their walking was very close. Upon opening my eyes I discovered that I was on a grain sledge and I was bound with woven cording. It didn’t make much difference then if I was bound or not, as I was so weak and hurt that walking wasn’t possible. I closed my eyes and willed myself to change back into the serpent, but that power had abandoned me. I was stuck like this, trapped in a weak, damaged body. I hated to admit it, but I was at their mercy.
The next few days were a blur during which time I mostly slept. Occasionally I was wakened at night and force fed something wet and hot that tasted like soaked grass. After a diet of meat for nearly forty years, this vegetation didn’t sit well with my body, but I began to put on weight again regardless. When I was strong enough, my captors enticed me with fish from the river or dead birds or hares. At first I would listlessly chew on them until the skin split, then I licked at the meat until it came away into my mouth, but eventually starvation would win out and I was tearing at it like a starved hyena. My little teeth were blunt and weak, and I often grew frustrated at how long it took Manavgat escort to feed – I had been in the shape of a seraph for so long that I had forgotten what it was like to be this way. The humans would simply watch me, and I suppose I looked very strange to them – A supple, slim body with pure white skin that never tanned, black hair and red eyes at my cleanest, even though now my body was plastered with mud, blood, dirt, and various other types of offal that I hadn’t even thought to scrape off. My hair, short at that time, was plastered to my head with the clay from the soil. Anytime someone came near me I hissed at them and screamed like an animal, knowing no other way to defend myself, bound, helpless, and small.
My strength returned and I was eventually made to walk along with the caravan with my slim wrists tied to the grain sledge. We traveled for miles every day, and at first my feet were bleeding and blistered but they toughened fast. The tracts of desert and field were endless and seemed to melt one into the other. I fought a few times against my captivity, but each time I was beaten down and curled up into a shivering ball. I still couldn’t change back into the serpent. It was as if the tremendous privation and despair had sealed off those abilities and wouldn’t allow me access to them anymore, just as my mind had nearly shut out any memories of having been with the Host. Every night I willed my flesh to change. I would strain for hours but nothing would ever happen, and in the morning I’d only be sore and under-slept. Every day I would be more weary than the day before, and I felt increasingly helpless. Was this my ultimate fate? Where I was once the prince of my kin, I was now treated worse than the horses of these apes.
One night we stopped by a river delta and my captors set up camp. It looked as if there were other caravans stopping there too, and the scent of other humans besides my own filled my nose. The humiliating thought of being looked at made me renew my struggles, and as always the largest of the beast handlers would grab me by the throat and yell his language into my face before using a strap of hide on me. The crack of it made the horses afraid, and the pain of it made my knees buckle. Back then I was new to this kind of treatment and my body couldn’t bear it.
That night I was left kneeling behind the grain sledge, shivering and suffering. I wasn’t paying attention to any of the humans until one of the younger men was crouched before me. I knew this one – he had brought me fish and had been the one who had made me eat at the beginning. I hated him least, though I still hated him.
To my surprise, he untied my rope from the sledge and urged me to my feet with gentle tugs and softer words. He was stopped by the beast handler and I shrank back, hissing, though the young man stood his ground. He gestured to the river, and the beast handler began to yell again. The young man didn’t give in and eventually he got his way. I was led down to the river and encouraged to walk into the water. It was cold but refreshing, especially on my wretched feet. The relief must have been plain to see because my rescuer started to smile. Somehow he coaxed me in to the level of my waist and let me clean myself. It was difficult with my wrists still tied, but I did manage to wash myself. I still wouldn’t let him touch me and pulled at the bonds when it looked like he was about to, but he quickly relented.
He brought me then to the fire and tied me to a cart near to it so that I might dry off. I was given a bowl of water and some of that wretched gruel, although he had also brought some sweet-tasting hard cake. This was very pleasant and I chewed on it for a long time, allowing him to sit and watch me. He spoke but I ignored him, finding his language brutish and pointless. I had no interest in learning it, though he seemed to be persisting with a single word. He would say “Arad” and gesture to himself, then look at me expectantly. As I chewed on my cake it occurred to me that he might be telling me his name.
I eyed him suspiciously for a moment, picking the cake out of my teeth with my tongue. My throat was dry as I said “L’Laiya” and gestured to myself.
Arad grinned and clapped his hands once with excitement. His action was so quick that I startled, pulling to the end of my rope in an instant with a hiss. He shook his head and laughed, speaking softly again and including my name. In time I returned to my spot in the sand, not quite sure what to do. These creatures had names, did they? Perhaps they weren’t as stupid as I’d thought. And…they’d caught me. That had been a crushing blow. I didn’t feel like talking anymore nor listening to him, and I simply looked away from him, resting my arms on my knees and laying my head upon the lot. Arad took the hint and left, taking my empty bowls with him.
The next morning I was taken to the river again by Arad and was allowed to bathe after I had eaten. It felt very good to be clean, and I may have even smiled. But my pleasure wilted as the head of the caravan yelled for Arad, and the young man lowered his head and quickly led me to shore. My rope was taken from him and I was led towards the other camps, with Arad bringing up the rear. I looked back at him, but his expression wasn’t reassuring.
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