This is actually a quite old story, I already published it in German a couple of years ago. But I wanted to give back something of the great enjoyment Jeff's Fort has given me, so I decided to translate it to English and to publish it here.
The story is set up in a fantasy setting, but it's nothing too heavy, so I hope even the readers who are not that heavy into fantasy will enjoy it. It is a short story, so don't expect too much. I'm actually thinking about expanding it more, but there are other things I want to do first.
Thanks to Darryl, he made a tremendous effort correcting this story. It was actually worse than anything else I wrote up to this point, because having the German text open at the same time made me write English words with German grammar. And thanks to Str8mayb as well, as he gave the story a final lookover, even found some typos Darryl hadn't spotted and encouraged me very much to publish it, and maybe even continue it. Every error still remaining in the story is my sole responsibiliy!
I fear that the story has lost some of its appeal while translating it, because I was able to use a bit outdated language in German, which I couldn't do in English. But I hope you will enjoy it nevertheless. Feedback is appreciated, of course.
I had the idea for this story while listening to the cited song at the first paragraph (in the version by Blind Guardian), and the images it created in my head were so strong, I just had to write it down. And watching "The Crow" the same evening didn't help, either.
"Spread your wings and fly away,
fly away, far away,
spread you little wings and fly away.
Pull yourself together,
'cause you know you should do better,
that's because you're a free man."
Queen / Blind Guardian - Spread your wings
"Hey, are you coming over finally?", resounded the yell across the yard. Lollin looked up startled, like waking up from a trance and risked a last look at the flock of birds he had observed. He then took the bucket with coals he forgot while staring and started to move in the direction of the workshop. Just before he entered the room, he took a last, longing and melancholic look over his shoulder in the direction of the steel blue sky. He glanced upon his own, useless wings and sighed lowly. The thought of the air, to feel it flowing around him, would stay a painful memory forever.
A sharp pain pulled him back to reality again. His master had approached him unnoticed, the still vibrating cane in his hand. "You have to work and not stare a hole in the sky!", the master barked at Lollin. "Yes, master", came his mumbeled reply. He poured the coals a bit more eager than before into the forge, and started to work on the bellow again. His master had put away the cane and took one of the heavy hammers, starting instantly to work on the iron ring on the anvil again.
Some hours later, the sun had descended behind the horizon a long time ago, the master finally put away the hammer. He turned around, going with fast steps to the door, not without shouting to Lollin: "When you have cleaned up here, you can go to sleep as well." With a small sigh, Lollin took the broom from the corner and started to to sweep today's dirt from the floor.
When he was finished finally, he rolled up in front of the still warm forge, trying to get to sleep. He should have been asleep instantly, after the long and hard working day, but as it happened often these days he couldn't calm down his racing thoughts. They were revolving around the flock of birds he had observerd earlier that day, and about how much he longed to get into the air with them, to enjoy the flowing air again and to soar into the sunset. He couldn't help it, but his thoughts were drawn involuntarily to the moment when he flew for the last time. In his memories he still could feel the sunrays on his wings, how he returned to the village, together with a couple of friends, returning from an afternoon filled with fun and games.
Even from a greater distance he was wondering why there was so few people on the streets and bridges, but he was hungry and looked forward to dinner, so he didn't thought that much about it. He landed in front of the door, shook out his wings and entered through the door. A startled cry managed to escape his throat, when he saw his parent lying on the floor, with wings knocked off and their throats cut. Then a dull pain raced through his skull, and he fainted.
The next thing he remembered, it had to be some time later, was a rough kick in his side. He started to to get up shakingly, and noticed the thick iron collar around his neck. From the collar a chain went to the right and left side when. When he turned his head to the right, he saw his brother Pallin, who was a couple of years younger than him. They must have caught him directly in their home. He looked like a mess, he must have struggled when they tried to overpower him, and he was still unconcious.
When he lifted his head a bit further, he saw a long line of children and youths, all chained together. He could spot his friends there as well, it seemed like they had gotten hold of all of the younger residents of the village.
A short time later, they could hear a shrill whistle, and a brutal pull to the chained signalled their departure. Over the next days, he was like in a trance. From the waking up in the morning over the monotonous walking along the chain to the meager meals in the evening, there was nothing which could pull the boys and girls out of their shock and apathy. Who couldn't stand the pace would be pulled brutally to the side of the path, beaten to death and left lying there. Talking was forbidden, Lollin could just get from his little brothers that they where surprised by the brutal gang of Lowies (this was how the people without wings were called airily most of the time) while preparing the dinner. They were quickly overpowered and they had killed their parents without much hassle with a slash from the sword. Pallin had struggled a bit, but was finally knocked out as well after a hit with the sword hilt on his head.
There had been some reports of pillagers raiding the villages of the Wings, but the elder people had waved those concerns away as an exaggaration, as a try of the Lowies to drive them away from their beautiful place.
After marching for some days (Lollin couldn't remember exactly how many days it had been), their party had been seperated, roughly 5 boys and girls were led in the directions of the big cities. At this time Lollin had been seperated from his brother who had been led to a different city than him.
Lollin tried to push back the memory of the next day as soon as it started emerging, but he couldn't help a loud sob escaping when he remembered the moment they clipped his wings. He knew exactly at that moment that the time of carefree floating through the air were gone, forever.
At last he had been sold to the smith in this small village. They didn't treat him that badly, he had heard from Wings who had been worked to death in the first days, but the longer he had to stay, the more overwhelming his wish to fly grew. Although he knew for sure that would never happen again, he couldn't help staring after each bird. He had been beaten quite often over the last days because of this.
Suddenly Lollin was startled by loud voices from the main room. This was unusual, so he decided to try to hear better what was going on. He got up very quitly and sneaked up to the big wooden door which led to the living room. He just heard the voice of the smith's wife, saying: "....but you can't do that, the poor lad!" And the voice of his master responded: "Just look at me, how I can do it. He is only staring holes in the sky, not much use for real work. And when he gets behind....", when the master started to calm and his words were drowned by the big door, so Lollin couldn't understand any more. He curled up again in front of the forge, and finally the long awaited sleep came.
The next day passed without any incidents, but when the evening came, Lollin had spotted a really large flock of birds through the window of the building and had forgotten to work the bellow over this. This was the moment when his master was at the end of his tether, he reached for the heavy riding whip, pushed Lollin over the anvil and started to work on his behind like the devil. While doing this, he just repeated the words: "I will teach you a lesson, your are just not appreciating the work I give you and not attentive to what I say and want!" Lollin tried to wriggle his way out of the grip of the master, but he just couldn't escape the blows of the whip. He started to sob uncontrollably. When the temper of the master had calmed down a bit, he took him at the neck, fetched the big iron collar which had been around Lollins neck when he arrived and returned it to that position. He dragged Lollin out of the building then and fastened the chain, which was usually used for fastening the horses, to the collar with a big lock. While doing this, he shouted the words: "You are going to sleep out here tonight. And if you aren't frozen or eaten by the wild animals tomorrow morning, perhaps you will give the work the required attention!"
Lollin tried to sit down with his wings to the wall, but winced in pain involuntarily when his back touched the ground. He curled up on his side, and tried to cry himself to sleep.
Some time later, the lights in the house had been turned down already, he heard the big front door creaking. But he didn't risk to take a look, because he was afraid the master had returned to punish him even more.
He sensed how his shirt was pushed up, his trousers pulled down a bit and a cooling salve was applied to his wounds. While this was done, a soothing voice spoke to him: "This will help you." He recognized the voice of Ratleff, the son of the master, who had treated him nicely all the time. But the master kept Lollin occupied with work and the master didn't want his son to have contact with a Wing, so there hadn't be more than a few short words between the two.
Lollin smiled up to him thankfully from puffy eyes when Ratleff pulled a big key from his pocket: "I have stolen this from my father today, I can't keep watching him treating you so badly." He took the key and unlocked the collar around Lollin's neck, to his great astonishment. Ratleff asked then: "Can you still fly?" Lollin just shook his head while the pain flooded up in him again, but Ratleff kept asking: "Have you tried it since you have come to us?" Lollin rang for words, and then pressing out: "No, how should I fly? My wings have been clipped. I can't fly anymore!" "This is the big secret they try to keep away from you. Your feathers start regrowing, after some time you can fly again! But it's just kept as a secret, so you don't get the idea to flee. Just try it!", he encouraged him.
New hope started to build in Lollin, to actually fly again and escape from this hell. He pulled himself together, relieved from his collar and got up. He tried to beat his wings, and he just couldn't believe it: He rose a couple of inches in the air, but quickly dropped back to the ground, afraid of his own courage. But encouraged from this success, he started to beat his wings harder, and just when he had started doing so, his knowledge about flying, thought to be lost forever, just returned and he just blew straight up in the air. A couple of yards high, he turned to a nearby row of trees.
Just when he wanted to fly away, he looked back and saw Ratleff standing in the moonlight. A thought came to his mind, and he took a sharp turn to a half circle and landed in front of Ratleff. He looked him directly in the eyes, and said: "You gave me the greatest gift I can imagine. Be assured of my eternal friendship and I just hope we will see each other again one day. But I hope you understand I can't stay here." When he had spoken these words, the put his arms around Ratleff und pulled him tightly to him. Enclosing his wings around the two of them, he hugged him for a couple of seconds. He then reached into his left wing, pulled out one of the very large outer feathers and gave it to Ratleff. He spoke: "Take this feather from me, so you will remember me forever. I will never forget you as well!"
When he had finished talked, he stretched his wings, took off and flew in direction of the low hanging moon, led by an overwhelming feeling of joy.