[[Work this bit in: foreshadowing:
Add smaller Pilot Eagles\Hawk (native name ?) sometimes come out when a flyer passes. Rare. Considered a good omen by the veteran flyers and the Yahata’ai. It is said they followed the Clear Wings into battle. Legend has it that Komoro’mai was joined by twelve great eagles in his battle against the Harpy. battle. Komoro’mai sailed against the the harpie horde, the only flyer left in the air, mighty [[Tanqueh]] King of Eagles at his wing. His piercing call rent the air and soon the sky was filled with twelve mighty eagles joining Komoro’mai.
Omen: As Tyn flies an eagle, larger and older than any remember seeing joins him in his flight. He sees Yahata’ai group as he lands. Do they give him a jar of clear wing substance?]
The children raced through the grass with arms held out like wings. Wide-eyed and laughing they chased the shadow of the one-man Sparrow Class flyer darting across the long grass. The pilot grinned down at the boisterous group, then sucked in a breath and pulled up sharply to avoid hitting a large remas tree, causing several of the children to fall into a laughing heap of arms and legs as they flung back their arms and mimicked his movement. His boot tips skipped along the foliage dislodging dry leaves that swirled in the wake of his flight. With every turn the onlookers scattered about the fields leaned, their bodies mirroring his movements along the flagged course. In the distance he could make out several giant Crane Men, their bird-like heads following his flight.
Only a few years ago he had been one of those children racing through the fields and dreaming of flying. Now here he was. His eyes caught sight of several gray eagles leaping from the cliff walls and riding his turbulence. A good omen. His fingers manipulated the hand controls, making minute adjustments to the gearing while his powerful shoulders and arms pulled steadily on harness translating movements into subtle changes in the wings. The flyer steadied along the marked course and the wind whistled a wild song in his ears. He felt a thrill that was equal parts fear and joy. Now the real flying begins. He straightened his legs, pushing down to extend the long twin tail fins that gave the craft its name and felt the thrumming in the frame as they caught the wind.
To his left the river sparkled and foamed as it followed the tree-lined banks to the roaring waterfall. Ahead he could see the five concentric arches forming his first obstacle. Each was made of woven green willow branches and tied with gaily colored ribbons – the smallest barely large enough for his flyer. He swooped towards it. The sound of the mighty Kahana River plunging into the valley beyond the arches was deafening.
The massive cascade of water, falling through the horseshoe-shaped notch carved through the plateau by the water, displaced large amounts of air. The unique geography of the valley, and height of the falls, created a powerful updraft along the edge of the drop known as the Freewind. Learning to ride this powerful current was the next step in earning the designations that would allow him to pilot the larger Hawk and Dragon Class flyers beyond the boundaries of the valley. But first, he had to get through the arches.
Then he was in the Freewind. The wings bucked suddenly, thrusting him skyward. He felt the acceleration and sudden lift straining the frame of the aircraft as if a monstrous hand yanked him skyward. His shoulders and arms strained as he forced the glider into the right configuration for the rapid ascent. It was terrifying – and exhilarating.
The green fell away and sheer walls of reddish-brown rock descended into the Lowlands. He was over the falls and climbing, in a tight circle. His knees pressed lightly against the twin rudders, curving the split tails, to increase the upwards curl of his flight.
Hours of practice hanging from a harness rigged with pulleys and heavy weights had built his muscles and endurance. The clever gearing system of the flight simulator had swung and spun him in ever more exhausting and complex patterns until his responses were wired into his muscles memory. Tandem and solo flights within the confines of the valley had prepared him for this moment. He used every trick he had been taught to ride the currents upwards and reveled in the moment as the land spun slowly below. Mist lay like a cloud in the elongated horse shoe shape carved by the river.
He shook off his reverie. The force of the Freewind dwindled. It’s time. He felt momentary sadness. This was the point at which he must turn back today. He looked to the horizon as he sailed in a wide crescent bow. A few miles south of the waterfall, lay the towering narrow mesa that was Aerion. He saw the small cluster of buildings at the top. Soon he thought, then smiled.
A few miles beyond Aerion the river dived underground and the land began to change in temperament. A great desert filled the center of the continent. Canyons, created before the river cut through the ground and dropped into the vast underground channel below. In the desert, tribesmen and perhaps the creatures of campfire tales.
He imagined the land as he had heard in stories. The river breaking free of its underground prison near the end of the continent, then The Wilds. Great swamps, maze like canyons, dangerous rapids annd more waterfalls until the water passed through the mighty Southern Wall. Then the city of Lands End and finally the great estuaries separating Illia from the island of Thracos. He sighed. Someday I’ll see it all.
His curving path removed Aerion and the desert from his view and he faced the waterfall where he had begun.
At the foot of the falls he could see the Lowlands and the city of Deadwater where rugged individuals of many races lived in a rough-and-tumble frontier setting. He could just make out the snake-like double line of defensive walls and guard towers that held the city against the base of the cliff. To the left the strange round lake of bitter water that gave the city it’s name. Despite being only a short distance from the main cities of Illia above, the cliff wall and the waterfall meant that Deadwater was isolated. Traveling to the cities above was an arduous journey of several days.
An area of turbulent mist in front of the waterfall gave a hint of the dangerous cross currents that flowed there. The Freewind provided safe passage which allowed the flyers to travel greater distances and to carry the heavier airships on their trips to Aerion and beyond. The wind directly in front of the falls, however, was unpredictable.
Everything looks so small. He gazed to where he knew the Ice Lands lay, hundreds of miles to the North, running all the way to the polar ice cap. East and west the mountains that enclosed Illia were too distant to be seen. Somewhere out there were also the city states of Felsterm, Brakven and Derklund.
The city of Illia lay before him. He could see the orderly rows of the inner city, the outlying estates and the patchwork greens and browns of far-flung farms and industries. A few of the large communal, inverted nest shaped dwellings of the Crane Men were visible in the distance.
The launch tower grew larger in his view. He began his final turn and the loop that would take him to the end his run. As he passed the tree line he pulled in his wings and dived swiftly to cut his altitude. Again the wind whistled in his ears and his heart filled with the thrill. People and buildings grew rapidly in his view. He eased his pull on the wing tips and raised them slightly causing them to flare. As the drag increased his forward momentum slowed. He could hear the cheers and calls of the children as they gave chase on the final approach. He used his powerful legs, arms and shoulders to cup the wings and tail. The graceful craft seemed to almost float to a stop as he approached the circle of cleared earth marking the end of the course. A gentle push on one of the levers retracted the twin tail fins and he took a few steps as he touched lightly down.
A cheer went up and people began crowding around to shake his hand and pat his back. Children ran calling out to ask him questions. He felt momentarily confused and unsteady at the change. He could see a small group of Builders with heads bent in animated discussion, no doubt commenting on the design of the glider. A small group of Yahata’ai stood looking at him. Then the crowd parted and he saw Minister Othram, First Wing Derian and his elder brother Tyron headed his way. He saluted the three. His brother gave him a crooked grin then grabbed him in an uncharacteristic bear hug. “I knew you could do it Tyn. Dad would have been proud to see you up there today.”
Tyn swallowed the lump in his throat and after a moment’s hesitation hugged his brother in return.