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Day Two Hundred and Six: One, Two Princes Here Before You

December 13, 2011 Leave a comment

For the month of December, I’ll be world-building. This means taking a look at the people, places, and institutions that I have created over the last six months and trying to figure out more about them. This will involve a look at the stories in which they’ve appeared, and then some speculation, stream-of-consciousness writing, and with any luck a few revelations. In addition, I may come back and add new material as the Elves in my unconscious ship out new ideas, so I’ll be sure to link them up.

Your feedback as readers is, of course, more than welcome. There are probably questions that I’m forgetting to ask and holes that I need to fill.

Wish me luck!

——————

You know you loved the Spin Doctors too. Just admit it and get it over with.

Anyway, tonight I thought I’d do a character sketch on the brothers who were featured in Prince of the Air, part one and part two.

As you may have noticed from previous character sketches, making a good character is a lot of work, and it takes time and some trial and error. You have to go to work on them and make decisions about who they are, decisions that will affect how your story plays out. If you make the wrong choices, the character might not be right for the story you want, so you have to start again. It’s like carving a statue out of marble, really. You hack away at all the bits that aren’t your character and hope you don’t manage to knock off an arm or a nose in the process. In the end, if you’ve done it right, you’ll have a good character – and only you’ll know how much goddamn effort went into making it.

Every now and then, though, a writer gets a gift. It comes from somewhere deep in your subconscious, in a hidden place you couldn’t get to if you tried. Once in a while a character walks out of this strange, secret room in your head, and it’s fully-formed and ready to go. It has a voice, it has a personality, likes and dislikes, a history all its own and it will very happily walk straight into the story you’ve written for it. All you can do, as the writer, is hope to keep up with what your character does.

Such is the case with Calaris and Rissandir den Raud, princes of the realm of Ardenspire. These two boys walked out of my head and they were already bickering. They may well be two of my favorite characters that I’ve done so far.

Here’s what the story says about them:

CALARIS DEN RAUD:

  • He’s the older brother
  • He’s the crown prince of Ardenspire
  • He starts shouting when he is afraid or upset
  • He cares a lot about his brother’s well-being
  • He admires Royal Wizard, Canucog
  • His name shortens to “Cal”
  • He’s risk-averse

RISSANDIR DEN RAUD:

  • He’s a tinkerer
  • He’s the younger brother
  • His name shortens to “Sand”
  • He really wants to fly, so he’s building a flying machine
  • He tested his machines on models first
  • He’s not comfortable with being a Royal
  • He believes in the ethic of work
  • He would rather get by without magic

To understate it, the brothers have an affectionate rivalry. Rissandir is very aware that he is the second son during a time of peace, that Calaris is very much his father’s son and will probably be a fine king. Rissandir was born to test things and try things, he has a very scientific mind, unusual in a magic-heavy kingdom, and is more than willing to risk his own health and safety to accomplish something without magical influence.

On top of that, he seems to be aware of and uncomfortable with his privilege as a Royal. In his speech before he takes off, he says:

“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.”

He knows that he’s bucking the trend, that he should appreciate what he has and just get about the business of being a prince, but he doesn’t want that. He doesn’t want to be known for being lucky in birth – he wants to be known for what he actually does. Thus, the flying machine. And that look to the King is important – King Raud has learned to let Rissandir have his own head, to let him try things. Maybe because the boy succeeds more often than he fails, and maybe because he knows what a pointless life a second-born prince can lead. Either way, Rissandir generally has his father’s blessing to try his wacky schemes.

One day, however, I’m sure he’ll push his father too far. I can easily see Rissandir leading some kind of republican movement in Ardenspire, insisting on some kind of democratic reforms against either his father or his brother. That would be a fun one to write…

Calaris, on the other hand, lacks his brother’s confidence. He generally avoids risk, even as he knows that risk is inevitable. What’s more, he knows just how much he doesn’t know about being a king. Like his brother, Calaris is highly self-aware, and he’s known since he was a child that he would one day be the king. Despite generations of peace, however, he’s been raised on the tales of kingly heroism, of kings that stood against the forces of darkness and won. Even without those tales of heroism, running a kingdom smoothly takes immense skill, patience, and tact. He believes wholly and fully in the responsibilities that come with being a king – protecting his family and protecting the people of Ardenspire to the last breath in his body.

His greatest fear is that his father will die – and he knows that he will, some day. When that day comes, Calaris will have to take over, and he is utterly certain that he will ruin everything his father worked for. Calaris has Impostor’s Syndrome written all over him: no matter how good he really is, he will always see himself as a fraud. And that’s why he doesn’t want to be king, why he doesn’t take risks or stick his neck out.

In fact, I might go so far as to say that the real reason he’s so concerned for Rissandir’s well-being is because secretly – so secretly that even Calaris isn’t aware of it – he wants to abdicate to his brother. In his heart of hearts, Calaris believes that his brother would be a far better king than he would, and so must do everything he can to keep him alive.

So you see, these boys showed up on my mental doorstep, baggage in hand and walked right into their story. There is nothing so cool as that.

Of course, there’s always a caveat to this kind of character: they don’t like to do as they’re told. Instead of shaping the character for the story, you end up shaping the story for the character. These are the ones who refuse to follow the plots you lay down, the ones who go left when you really want them to go right, or the ones who sit down right in the middle of the story and say, “Nope. I’m not going anywhere.”

What has to go from there, of course, is a delicate re-adjustment both of story and character. You may have to re-tool the story in order to get the character to do what you want. This means not telling the story you thought you were going to tell when you embarked on this project. If you do it right, though, and find a story that both you and your character are happy with, you will have something wonderful indeed.

Story Ideas:

  • Calaris has taken the throne. Rissandir gets pulled into a reform movement. Chaos ensues.
  • Calaris becomes king. Tries to abdicate to Rissandir, who refuses.
  • Pretty much any story where Rissandir drags his older brother into chaos.

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

November 22, 2011 6 comments

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

Day One Hundred and Eighty-four: Prince of the Air 1

November 21, 2011 4 comments

“You’re gonna get killed, you know that.”

Crown Prince Calaris, heir to the throne of Ardenspire, watched his younger brother in exhausted disbelief. The field was full of canvas and wood and hardware, stacked, spilled, and rolled out every which way. At the far end of the field was the Drop, a cliff that led a hundred feet down to rocks and thundering water. In the middle of everything was this… thing. It looked like a bird, if the bird had been designed by someone who’d never actually seen one before. And under the thing was Rissandir.

“I’m not going to get killed,” he said, gently hammering at something. “The model worked, didn’t it?”

“The fifth model worked,” Calaris said. “The other four dropped like stones and smashed to pieces in the courtyard. Much like you’re going to do.”

“Am not. Hand me that brace?” Rissandir gestured vaguely to a piece of metal laying nearby. His brother dropped it into his hand.

“Sand, if you want to fly so badly, why not just ask Canucog? I’m sure he can get you a spell or a potion or a ring or something.” He poked the canvas-covered frame. “Something that works. He’s not busy these days, so come on. We’ll ask Father and you’ll be up in the air in no time.”

Rissandir shook his head. “No magic,” he said. “I want to do this by myself.”

“But why?” He threw up his hands. “Sand, we’ve figured out flying! Hell, Grandfather did it – remember that story? The siege of Thysnamos? He and his twelve guardsmen came right in on top of King Vysoli. The guy never knew what hit him, and it’s been fifty years of peace since then!” He held out a hand to help his brother up. “So come on, Sand. Take this thing apart, and if you want to fly, fly right.”

Rissandir looked at his big brother and wiped his hand on a rag. “Cal, I get it. You’re scared.”

“Yeah – that you’re going to break every bone in your body and then I’m going to have to explain it to father and then he’ll break every bone in mine!” He was starting to shout, and the was usually the sign that things were about to get bad. His brother had been the one to point that out to him, years ago.

The truth was, Rissandir was smart. Smarter than Calaris, definitely smarter than their father, and probably smarter even than Canucog. If anything scared Calaris, it was that. That, and the knowledge that being smart didn’t mean you couldn’t make mistakes.

Rissandir didn’t often make mistakes, though. That was his particular gift – the ability to see the way things should go and to learn from his mistakes. Their father liked to joke that he’d been bespelled to be bright, but Canucog always swore that nothing of the sort had happened. The boy was just a natural.

He also seemed to be without fear. Or common sense. His wood-and-canvas bird thing looked like it would fall apart long before it even found the air. But he’d been working on it for months, putting together models to try and figure out how wings should work and what it would take for it to carry a person. Deep down, Calaris suspected that it just might work, but he also suspected that it would only work briefly.

He looked out at the cliff’s edge. “Please tell me you’re not planning to fly this thing off the cliff,” he said.

“That is, in fact, exactly what I’m planning to do.” Rissandir tightened the knots on his canvas winds and smiled that brilliant, boyish smile of his. “Nearly done,” he said. “Just one more thing I need.”

“A good thump on the head.”

“That, and a way to get this thing moving.” Rissandir walked over to a large black trunk, bound with iron. He grabbed one of the handles and jerked his head towards Calaris. His older brother sighed, trudged over, and got the other handle. The trunk was surprisingly heavy for its size. They carried it over to the flying machine and set it down under one of its wings. “Y’see, I figured something out with those models,” Rissandir said as he unlatched the box.

“Yeah,” Calaris muttered. “I think we all did.”

“This thing will have to be going pretty fast if it’s going to be able to catch the air and lift itself up.”

Calaris clutched his head. “See? This is what I mean! I have no idea what you’re talking about!”

His brother grinned. “It’s okay, Cal. You don’t need to. It works whether you understand it or not.” He reached into the case and pulled out a large silver cylinder. It was open at both ends and about as big around as his thigh. “In order to make this go fast enough, I need a kind of motive power. And that, I’m afraid, is where I have to bend my ‘no magic’ rule a little.”

That caught Calaris’ attention. “What do you mean?” he asked.

Rissandir took what looked like a bracket from the case and started attaching the cylinder to the wing. “I thought about having horses pull it,” he said. “But they can’t go fast enough. And I thought about just dropping it off the cliff, but no matter what you think, Cal, I’m not an idiot.” Calaris’ face reddened, but Rissandir didn’t seem to notice. “So finally I asked Canucog for help.”

That was a shock. The wizard wasn’t the most forthcoming of men, which was normal for wizards. And Calaris had been almost certain that he would have had nothing to do with whatever it was Rissandir was making. “He said it sounded like an interesting project,” Rissandir said, stepping away from the wing and examining his work. “So he agreed.”

Calaris was impressed. He still didn’t think it would work, but if the Royal Wizard was involved, then maybe there was a small chance that it wouldn’t be a complete catastrophe. At his brother’s insistence, he helped carry the case over to the other wing. Surprisingly, it was no lighter for having lost such large cargo. Rissandir lifted an identical cylinder out and started to bolt it to the wing. “I told him what I needed, and he made these.”

After a moment, Calaris couldn’t wait any longer. “And they are…?”

“I call them my portable dragons,” Rissandir said. He took one more item out of the case – a small wand with a bright blue gem on the end of it. “All I need to do is speak a Command Word into this and they’ll go off.” He closed the trunk and dragged it away. Then he jumped up into the machine and pulled a couple of levers in the place where he would probably sit when he finally decided to try it out. “C’mon,” he said, jumping down. “Let’s go off a bit.”

The brothers walked about ten paces from the flying thing, and then Rissandir held up the wand. “I had Canucog set a few different commands for these. Test, go, stop, things like that. I’ll just test for now.” He held up the wand and said, “Coscade.”

The portable dragons roared to life, fire shooting out from their backs. The whole machine seemed to want to leap forward, but it didn’t. It shook and it rattled, and the roar of the dragons was getting louder and louder. Everything behind the dragons blew away down the field, tumbling and flying. “What’s supposed to happen?” Calaris yelled at his brother.

“When they’re at full power,” his brother yelled back, “they should be able to – WOAH!”

The dragons had ripped loose from their wings, tearing the wings half-off in the process. They were dragging wood and canvas behind them, but they were moving at a good speed.

Right towards the edge of the cliff.

The brothers ran after them, and Rissandir had the wand up to his mouth. He was shouting, “Wannek! Wannek!”

The dragons stopped spitting their flame and rolled to a stop within a few feet of the cliff’s edge. Rissandir fell to his knees, breathing heavily. “Oh, thank the gods,” he said.

Calaris walked over to one of the dragons, trying not to look down at the crashing waves and jagged rocks below. “I know,” he said. He touched one of the fire-breathing things and was surprised to find that it was cool. “Canucog probably would have used your skull as a raven’s nest if you lost them.” Rissandir just nodded and picked them up.

They carried the dragons back to the flying machine, which was missing most of its wings. Calaris ran a hand over the front of it. “Sorry your… thing got destroyed, Sand,” he said. “Who knows? It might have worked.” He shrugged and started picking up scraps of wood and canvas. “Oh well. May as well take this thing apart and get home.”

Rissandir started to laugh, and he was actually shaking his head as though Calaris had said something stupid. “I will take it apart, Cal,” he said. “But only to build it better.” He patted the machine with far more affection than Calaris had, and looked at it with the gleam of anticipation in his eyes. “Now I know what the big problem is, I can make it stronger. And when I do, big brother…” He looked over at Calaris, and there was an earnestness, a belief in his eyes that almost – almost – made Calaris want to believe that he could do it.

“When I do,” Rissandir said again, “I will fly.”

TO BE CONTINUED….

*****

Calaris den Raud’s page on 30characters.com