Home > NaNoWriMo 2011, The Serial Box > Day One Hundred and Eighty-five: Prince of the Air 2

Day One Hundred and Eighty-five: Prince of the Air 2

Read part one…

———

The sun rose on The Drop six weeks later, and Crown Prince Calaris was no more confident in his brother’s project than he had been before. If anything, he was more sure that this would be the day he saw Rissandir die.

The flying machine had somehow gotten bigger. After the failure with the dragons, Rissandir spent every day in his workshop, testing and weighing and experimenting with materials. He had hunters and farmers bring him more dead birds so that he could study them, and what resulted was a strange, honeycombed design covered in stretched and waxed canvas, with wings that curved back and a beak that jutted out to a sharp point. In lieu of feathers, the wings and the tail had small flaps that moved up and down, side to side, all controlled from the driver’s seat.

The dragons were strapped and secured to the underside of each wing, and Rissandir stood in the seat for the driver and looked out at the waters past the Drop.

To his credit, and perhaps because he knew what Calaris knew – that failure was most certainly an option – Rissandir had invited only his brother and Canucog, the Royal Magician. Calaris was still surprised that the wizard wanted anything to do with it. After all, he had the ability to create magics that allowed people to fly, and here was this upstart prince trying to do it mechanically. But the wizard just smiled when Calaris asked, saying that there were many ways to explore the world, and that he respected curiosity in all its forms. For that reason, he created the dragons that would push the flying machine forward at a fast enough speed to, Rissandir believed, catch the air and launch him into the sky.

If they didn’t just rip it apart again.

Rissandir looked like he’d never stop smiling, and Calaris found himself trying to etch that smile in his memory, so that he would have one good thing to recall after his brother fell to his death. He’d spent those six weeks, like the ones before, trying to convince his brother to give up his insane project. He tried to approach it logically, to explain that something made of wood and metal and fabric was so heavy that it could never do anything but fall.

Rissandir looked up towards the far mountain peaks. Sharp eyes could spot the tiny black forms of the silver-tailed eagles that lived out there, prized for their feathers and their talons. “How much do you think one of those eagles weighs?” he asked.

“I have no idea,” Calaris said. “What does this have to do with -”

“As much as a dog, maybe,” Rissandir said. “And yet they fly just fine.” He reached down and picked up a pebble. “This weighs a lot less than even a sparrow.” He let go, and the pebble dropped to the ground. “I don’t think weight really matters, Cal,” he said. “It’s all about shape and speed.”

Later, Calaris presented another argument while they were at their studies after dinner. “Sand, you know you’re a prince.”

“I am aware, yes.”

“Well, there you go. We can’t have a Prince of the Realm risking his life the way you’re doing.” Calaris walked over to his brother’s side and put a hand on his shoulder. “It’s vital to the kingdom that you take care of yourself.”

Rissandir chuckled and went on with his figures. “Cal, you’re the eldest, and you take fewer risks than any other person I’ve known. You’re not going anywhere.” He glanced up. “And even if you and I are gone, there’s still Lennick.”

“He’s three!”

“Then we’d best not die for a while.” He returned to his studies while his brother fumed.

Calaris couldn’t understand. They had been taught from birth that they were vital to the succession of the throne and the survival of their kingdom. They were royal blood, which meant that they had to hold themselves above the kind of things that normal people got to do. No choosing who you would marry, no going out hunting on a whim, no just playing about with your friends – if you even had friends. They’d been born into this life, and Rissandir was just sitting there, ignoring it.

He grabbed his brother and spun him around. “Rissandir den Raud, as the Crown Prince of Ardenspire I am ordering you to put an end to this flying machine nonsense right now!”

Rissandir looked up at him, shook his head and returned to his work. “Good luck with that,” he said, leaving his brother to fume. And he was right. There was nothing that Calaris could do to change his mind, and finally he had given up trying.

Now his brother was ready to launch himself into oblivion. He’d got his hands on some heavy leathers and had some kind of protectors over his eyes as he looked off into the sunrise. The sky was turning blue and clear. At least they’d have a good view of his crash.

“I just want to say a few words,” Rissandir said. “Flying is not -”

He cut himself off and looked towards the castle. Calaris turned to look and saw the familiar heavyset figure of their father trudging across the field towards them. He looked up at his brother and grinned. “It was nice while it lasted, Sand.”

The king was out of breath when he arrived. He was a man who excelled as an administrator of a great kingdom, but was not known for his physical fitness. His father had been a warrior, who crushed the enemies of Ardenspire under his heel. He’d lost four sons in battle, leaving him with the brainy, combat-shy fifth, who turned out to be exactly what a kingdom at peace needed. He set up new courts and channels for his subjects to address their grievances, re-arranged the local governments of towns and villages so they would be more accountable to their people and spent days making minute adjustments to levies, tariffs and taxes. If he’d had a more outgoing personality, he would have become the most beloved king in the history of Ardenspire, but he didn’t like meeting people and hated to leave the castle unless it was necessary.

“I thought I’d come out,” he wheezed, “and see for myself what it is my son is doing.” He looked over at Canucog, who seemed concerned that his king had actually walked out this far.

“Prince Rissandir is attempting suicide, Father,” Calaris said. “You really should stop it.”

“Don’t listen to him, father,” Rissandir said, jumping down from his flying machine. “I know exactly what I’m doing.”

“Yes – you’re making work for the royal undertaker.”

“Dammit, Cal, will you stay out of this? It doesn’t concern you!”

“It damn well does concern me, Sand – I’m your brother and I will bloody well -”

“Enough!”

The king’s shout boomed across the plain and both princes stopped arguing. Their father never shouted. Calaris looked down at his feet, ashamed, while Rissandir crossed his arms across his chest and looked ready for a fight.

“Wizard Canucog has told me about your project, Rissandir,” the king said. He walked over to the flying machine and patted it on the side like a horse. “You really think you can make her fly?”

“Absolutely,” Rissandir said.

The king looked over at the wizard, who seemed to think for a moment before he nodded. “All right, then,” the king said. “Off with you.”

Rissandir jumped up into the driver’s seat while Calaris put his head in his hands. His father put his arm around him and said, “Your brother may be a little crazy, son. But if this works?” He had a strange, faraway look on his face. “If this works, then it’ll mean a whole new world.”

“Yes,” Calaris said. “I suppose it will.” He was imagining a world without his little brother, and it hurt him more than he ever would have been willing to admit.

Rissandir stood in the pilot’s space and looked down at them. “I wrote a little speech,” he said, blushing. “It seemed the right thing to do.”

The king put his hands behind his back and smiled through a few days’ growth of beard. “Let’s hear it, boy.”

He cleared his throat. “Flying is not a new thing for our family,” he said. “King Alden den Fevre led his twelve bravest through the air against the tyrant king Vysoli. With the flying rings they wore, they were able to soar through the air and defeat their gravest enemy.” He looked down at the wizard. “And if I asked, you’d give me one just like it, wouldn’t you, Royal Wizard?”

Canucog chuckled. “I don’t know about ‘give,’ young prince.” Everyone laughed gently at that, even Rissandir.

“But that’s just it,” Rissandir went on. “Isn’t it? If we want to fly, then flight is given to us. If we want…” He searched for what he wanted to say. “If we want clean clothes, there’s a simple talisman for that. If we need to sleep well, we are given an amulet.” He gestured to the faraway castle. “Half that castle was raised by magic! Given to us.”

He paused to take a breath. “Given to us,” he said again. “Not earned.” He took a moment, and Calaris looked to his father. The king’s face was hard enough to read, and the wizard’s gave away nothing at all.

“Maybe because we’ve been at peace for so long,” Rissandir said, “but we’ve forgotten what it’s like to work for things. To make things. To earn things.” He glanced out towards the villages beyond the castle. “The people of Ardenspire – the common people – they work and make and earn. We in the castle ask for things and they are given to us.”

He took off a glove and gently caressed the machine he’d built. “If this succeeds,” he said, “it’s due to my own skills and talents. If this fails…” He made sure to look right at Calaris, who looked away. “If this fails, then it’s due to my own mistakes and impatience.” He patted the machine and put his glove on again. “Either way, this is mine. I worked for it. I made it. I earned it.”

Rissandir put the protectors down over his eyes. “Let’s go,” he said.

Canucog led the king and Calaris away from the flying machine as Rissandir sat down in the driver’s seat and started fastening straps around himself. He pulled some levers, took a deep breath, lifted the control wand and shouted, “Ogari!”

The dragons roared to life, much more powerfully and louder than they had the last time. Calaris put his hands over his ears, and saw that his father and the wizard had done the same. The howl of the dragons seemed to go on forever until slowly, the flying machine began to move forward.

It moved slowly, but picked up speed. Soon it was rushing along faster than a man, faster than a horse – faster than anything Calaris could compare it to. By the time it reached the edge of the Drop, it was hurtling along at such a speed that Calaris wondered how his brother could stand it. In a tiny, dark corner of his heart, he wondered if Rissandir might be dead already from going so fast.

The machine reached the edge and, in his mind, Calaris saw it drop. He saw it disappear over the edge, and the roar of the dragons become fainter until they were lost in the crash of the waves a hundred feet below. He knew he could run to the edge and look down, and perhaps catch a glimpse of his brother’s broken and battered body before the waves tore it from the rocks and washed it out to sea. His eyes filled with tears and he started to repeat Rissandir’s name over and over to himself.

His father tapped him on the shoulder, bringing him back to himself. “Look, boy!” he said, pointing out over the ocean. “I’ll be damned.” His face was full of awe.

The flying machine was flying.

He couldn’t make Rissandir out at this distance, but it was moving deceptively slowly through the air, turning in a great and lazy curve to come back to them. As he came closer, they could hear him cheering and laughing, and now Calaris was crying for an altogether different reason. His father was hooting and calling Rissandir’s name, and Canucog was just watching the machine fly by with wide and excited eyes.

The flying machine roared over their heads, trailing Rissandir’s triumphant whoop behind it, and turned out in the other direction, towards the castle. They watched as it circled the great keep twice, and wondered what the people there would think of it. There hadn’t been true dragons in the world for a thousand generations, and Calaris hoped that no one would think that they had suddenly come back.

The flying machine came back towards them, flying low. The wooden wheels grazed the close-cut grass as Rissandir lowered the machine, and then they touched the earth.

And then they shattered.

The struts they’d been attached to gouged great furrows in the earth, but that wasn’t slowing it down at all. Calaris, his father, and the wizard all moved as fast as they could to get out of the way of the thundering, screaming machine as it barreled towards them – and the Drop.

Calaris screamed his brother’s name as the machine passed them, and in that terrible slowness of the mind’s eye, he could see Rissandir pulling at the main lever, his teeth clenched and his arms rigid with the effort to stop the thing that he’d built.

As the machine got closer to the edge, Rissandir jumped out. He rolled a ways along the grass, coming to a stop just a few feet from the edge. He clutched at his arm and raised himself up just enough to see his great creation fly once more – off the edge of the Drop.

This time, it did not fly. It went out a bit and then dropped gently down towards the water. The crash of wood was barely audible at this distance, and when they ran to look over the edge, all that was left of the flying machine was splinters and scraps of canvas and rope. The waves, unstoppable as ever, beat at the cliff and broke up even those pieces into smaller ones. Rissandir’s flying machine was gone.

Behind them, the young prince was laughing.

They turned as one to look at him. His leathers were torn and he was bleeding from his cheek. He was cradling his right arm, and it was easy to see how it bent at a terrible angle. He was pale, with tears running down his face, but he was laughing nonetheless.

Canucog ran over, already taking a small lump of amber from the pouch at his belt. It started to glow as he chanted to it, but Rissandir waved it away. “No,” he said. He was breathing heavily, but his eyes were clear and bright. “No,” he said again. “Not like that.”

“Your highness,” the wizard said, “if I do not heal this now, the recovery process will be long and painful. You may not have the use of that arm for quite some time.” The wizard’s tone was warm and concerned, and Rissandir nodded.

“I know,” he said. He looked back out towards where his creation had fallen. “I earned this,” he said quietly. “I want to keep it.” Then, with a smile still on his face, he passed out.

The wizard looked over at the king. “You heard the boy,” the king said. Canucog shrugged and put away the amber. Then he gestured and said a fluid, quiet word. A blue glow surrounded Rissandir, and the young man began to hover slightly off the ground. “Calaris,” the king said. “Take your brother home. We’ll talk more about this when he’s well.” The king gestured to Canucog, who joined him at his side, and the two walked towards the castle, speaking quietly as they went.

Calaris looked down at his brother, still smiling and now glowing faintly blue. Carefully, trying not to jog his broken arm, Calaris lifted his brother up. Thanks to the wizard’s magic, Rissandir weighed next to nothing. “C’mon, you,” he said to his brother as he pulled him along through the air. “I knew I’d get you magicked into the air eventually.”

Healing would take a long time, that was for sure. Calaris was sure that Rissandir could keep himself busy, though. By the time his arm healed, he would probably have an all new flying machine designed and ready to build. In a year, he would be in the air again.

And maybe this time I’ll help, Calaris thought.

*****

Rissandir den Raud’s page on 30characters.com

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  1. November 22, 2011 at 7:05 PM

    Again the thing I like most about this is the sense of relationship and history between the characters. I’m wondering if I’ve hit this late and you’ve written loads in this world already. *Begins to sniff round the site*

    Anyway, I liked the conclusion to this part of the story. More please!

    • November 22, 2011 at 7:08 PM

      Glad you enjoyed it! I had a lot of fun with the brothers, and was lucky that they kind of sprung into my head already bickering. I also liked the idea of a fantasy character rejecting his genre…

      As far as I know, I haven’t written in this world before, certainly not Ardenspire. But I’m discovering that a lot of places tend to link themselves together as I go, so there could be links one day from here to some of the other more straightforward fantasy stories I’ve done. I’m just as interested to find out as you are. *grin*

  1. November 22, 2011 at 6:41 PM
  2. November 22, 2011 at 6:41 PM
  3. November 24, 2011 at 10:23 PM
  4. December 13, 2011 at 9:02 PM

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