Note from the author: Sorry, folks, but there’s going to be a delay before the next adventure begins. The plot for it went in an unexpected direction, and working that out was slowed considerably by a health issue I’m not going to get into. I also have other projects on the go, competing for my time, and, well, Moonblood honestly has less of an audience than my novels gain. I don’t intend to abandon it, however. I hope that within a week or so I’ll be able to get at least a couple of more-or-less stand-alone chapters up, showing what the gang’s up to once they’re out of Enodia and on the road, and that the next adventure will start soon. My apologies, and thank you for reading and for your patience!
(chapter continued from previous post)
That moment of brightening light, they knew very well. Tyrel sent a mental plea to the moons that Lysandra’s other form would be something she’d like and would adapt to easily.
The animal left on the grass when the silver-blue light faded to more normal levels was… confusing. Smaller than Mirren, or was she?
“Oh my,” Kaveri breathed. “You have wings!”
Kieran, very gently, helped Lysandra get untangled, and kept a hand cupped under her belly to support her while she tried to figure this out. “Indeed. And in a very beautiful form. I believe in several languages, the name for what you are translates as winged fox or flying fox.”
“Honeyfox,” Narcissa said in delight. “I’ve seen drawings and paintings, and Iole told me about them. Red-gold with deeper red-brown wings and that thin nearly-white collar at the front continuing in a line part of the way down… that’s a honeyfox, specifically. They winter in the western islands, and go north some way in the summer to feed on flowers and fruit while they raise their young. There are rumours of them guiding humans to bees’ nests, so they can have help reaching the honey, but it’s well-documented that even without help they find honey irresistible.”
“I can see why they’d be compared to foxes,” Mirren said. “That’s much prettier than the only bats I’ve ever seen. Much bigger, too.”
“Foxes with wings,” Tyrel muttered. “This world just never stops surprising me.” Lysandra really was a lovely creature, with that rich-coloured fur and the large eyes and foxy face.
But she was tiny, the length of body and head much less than a foot long, much of it fitting within Kieran’s hand, and while Kieran was very strong, Tyrel thought she must weigh very little. She did, however, have those wings, which she was studying in perplexity, slowly working out how to flex what would have been fingers on a human. What would have been a thumb, on each side, was quite pronounced and bore a large hooked claw, but the other fingers were all incredibly elongated to support that membrane, which looked alarmingly fragile.
“I believe,” Kieran said, “this may be as difficult to master as being human was for me. Learning to fly cannot be a simple thing. But once you do, well… none of the rest of us can fly.”
Lysandra spread one wing—Narcissa edged back out of the way—and then the other, and then, experimentally, both as far as she could.
Suddenly, she looked less small. That wingspan had to be something like four feet. Shoulder and chest muscles rippled under her sleek fur, as she worked out how to move, and then how to beat them in a long slow stroke. That must have felt right, because she did it again, more quickly.
“Or maybe,” Kieran said in amusement, “you’ll be a faster learner than I was. The instincts you need will be there and accessible.”
“The difficult part,” Narcissa said, “is to not think so much about what you’re doing and how strange and impossible it is that you interfere with that. Although it may feel less strange, I suppose, after two years of watching us.”
Kieran nodded. “It may indeed.” Still holding Lysandra, he got his feet under him, then stood up, taking care not to drop her or hamper her increasingly vigorous efforts to master her drastically altered upper limbs. Tyrel wasn’t sure she noticed the increased altitude.
She certainly noticed when he gave her a gentle toss upwards and quickly stepped back out of the way: she screeched, wings automatically beating hard.
It wasn’t flight exactly, but it wasn’t a straight drop to the ground, either. More like a glide with a brief moment or two of hovering. She stumbled a bit as her clawed back feet touched the grass, and dropped forward, supporting herself on one hand, or rather her wrist. The glare she turned on Kieran was distinctly accusing, in the body language of any kind of animal.
“You can’t be hurt,” he pointed out, kneeling beside her. “Meyar is full above you. Short of drowning you in the spring, I could do you no true harm right now even if I wished to, and you know I would never wish to.”
She looked up at Meyar, and a few heartbeats later was human again, on her knees with one hand on the ground. “Not to anything but my pride,” she grumbled, sitting back, but there was no real anger behind it. “This is going to take a while to adapt to, and longer before there’s any hope of being much use, but I think once I do, it could be a lot of fun. It helps to think of it something like dancing, move this and only this, and why are you all looking at me like that?”
Narcissa found her voice first. “Look at yourself.”
“What?” Puzzled, Lysandra looked down.
At breasts that were, while not large, of a comfortable size and emphatically real. And below that, to more pronounced hips, and a very definite change in anatomy. What she couldn’t see, but the others could, was that her hair was at least a handspan longer and much thicker, and Tyrel would’ve sworn that her skin had never suffered from excessive unwanted hair or the prices of its repeated removal, anywhere.
She ran a trembling hand down her own body, lips parted and eyes wide.
And burst into tears, curling in on herself and burying her face in her hands.
Narcissa scrambled closer, her usual grace abandoned in concern, to slide an arm around her.
“Aithre’s children aren’t the only ones who see what’s really there,” Kaveri said.
“I’m all right,” Lysandra said, past the sobs.
“We know that,” Mirren said.
Kieran wove a square of fabric from Talir’s light and handed it to her. “We do,” he agreed. “Old injuries heal when we change. My friend Derius, a very long time ago, speculated as to whether a congenital deformity would be corrected as well, or whether it would be considered natural state. I suspect that the timing matters little, and self-perception is the deciding factor. I think Meyar has concluded that this is what is supposed to be your natural state.”
Lysandra looked up to the silver-blue moon, tears on her cheeks, and whispered, “Thank you.”
Someone outside the circle laughed.
A tall woman, her midnight hair loose in thick waves, dressed in a dancer’s top and skirt of vivid saffron orange-yellow. The golden and indigo snakes around her arms, though, were alive.
“Mothers want their children happy,” she said, raising her arms and swaying lazily to music that was only in her own mind. “It’s the natural state of mothers. Which isn’t to say you aren’t still mine. What you are can change, but never what you were, and that’s a part of you always. If you ever need a rest from wandering, you’ll always be welcome in my temples, whether it’s for days or years.” She let her arms fall. “Meyar wanted her children to have a long life with few distractions so they could learn as much as possible about the world and then share that with others in one form or another to help them better understand and appreciate it. Some of her chosen are scholars, philosophers, teachers. Some are artists, musicians, poets, dancers. Many, in time, cease to see a boundary between. You, sweet daughter, already understand much in a way that most people never will.” She spun in place, her skirt shimmering in the light of four full moons and a half-full one as it swirled around her, and after at least two full circuits she stopped, facing Narcissa. “Lirit moved first,” she chuckled. “Meyar regretted not being faster when you changed, but it was entirely unexpected for everyone, with no time to think. But then, what you do crosses the boundaries between knowledge and the wilds, hm? Not the only boundary you’ve ever danced along. Your mother is pleased you feel free to leave Enodia.”
She laughed again, already in motion, and between one step and the next, was gone.
But her voice lingered. “Lysandra, stop crying and dance.”
The blue-white light around Lysandra strengthened, but she didn’t change. Instead, the light gathered itself into a close-fitting top with only straps across the shoulders and a fairly low neck, and a full skirt sitting low on her hips, all of it dazzling white.
“I think Meyar seconds that,” Madoc said.
Lysandra looked down and laughed, though her breath still caught. “I think you’re right. And I think it would be unwise to disobey both her and Aithre.” She got up, dropping the handkerchief.
“Think of it as your wedding dance,” Narcissa said. “Instead of asking for blessings on you and a husband…”
“Blessings on myself, three husbands, two co-wives, and my sister?” Lysandra said, laughing still.
Possibly we messed Narcissa’s life up, or at least wrenched it rather violently onto a different road, but I think somehow in there we might have made Lysandra’s right for the first time ever. And given how Narcissa feels about her sister, I think that helps to make hers right, too.
Tyrel watched, unwilling to miss even a heartbeat, as Lysandra gathered up everything she was feeling, joy and release and hope, tireless and ecstatic with Meyar’s silver-blue light rippling around her, and danced.
What can I say? I hope you enjoyed this, the longest Moonblood story yet, and are inclined to hang around for the next one to start. The family is certainly growing… although unlike Mirren, at least I actually planned on Narcissa and Lysandra!
For the record, there’s no such thing as a honeyfox in the real world. I wanted to give Lysandra wings and wanted her to be a mammal, and flying foxes seemed ideal, but I couldn’t find any one sort that seemed likely to be anything but problematic if they move out of a warm climate. So, I extrapolated and synthesized a flying fox species, using info from various extant ones, mostly Pteropus species, and stats especially from the Indian flying fox, Pteropus giganteus, and made it migratory and more adaptable. Hey, why not?
Coming up next: Return