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Bird of Freedom: Chapter 1

by Sunflowerdemon3712


Prologue

The heat of fire prickles among the large room and the smell of ink is in the air. People turn as she walks throughout the halls of the endless world that is the Library of Dreams. They gasp as light weaves at her right hand and she throws it to the ground, disappearing in an instant. Even once she’s gone the smell of decay and rotting wood is left behind, pungent and foul, just like her. Everyone goes back to their tasks, as they know they should, but fear suffocates them and most turn in early.

Meanwhile, the woman has other plans. She melts through the shadows of the mortal world, creeping and silent. The mortals feel her presence, a shiver down their spines, a sudden bout of sleepiness or a strange pang of pain in their chests. She is everywhere, but she needs to be in one place in particular at the moment.

The night life of the town is poor, despite this people don’t resist their urge to peek out the windows, step into the streets or wait in the town square. As she walks past people drop to their knees clenching their hands together desperately. She ignores all of them, eyes glazing over them like they’re nothing more than bugs, to her they almost seem to be such. With each step she grows closer to her destination, the palace of the high councilor.

The high councilor is a respected man, his status is high and richer than all the other council members combined. Guards stand in front of his palace yet even they shake and kneel in the presence of the woman. She sweeps past them brushing one of them with her right hand, tears of joy spill from his eyes as he sinks deeper into his bow. She continues all the way up to the room she is needed in, through the halls of maids and butlers, up all the way to the tallest tower in the most distant part of the palace.

The room is guarded by guards, a woman and a man, she brushes the woman with her left hand and the guard freezes, dropping to her knees and begging for the woman not to do it. The other guard is confused, so he just bows and opens the door for the woman who takes a step inside.

The nursery is delicately decorated, soft colors, wooden toys and an overly intricate cradle with two people standing over it. Two people, a man and a woman, the man is the father of the child, but the woman is not the mother. Inside the cradle is a baby, dark skin like her father but eyes yet to gain their true color due to her youth. She’s dressed in night clothes of deep blues and greens.

“Hello love,” The man says to the woman who is not his wife.

“Councilor Meverin, the child looks healthy,” The woman looks over the child, putting down both of her fingers, the child grabs both much to her own surprise.

“Will she be okay?” The wife asks with tears welling in her eyes for a child that isn’t her’s.

“Yes, no child of mine would die by my hand, if at all,” She whispers, picking up and cradling the child in her arms. “She will be strong, intelligent and brave, but she will have a fire of defiance and justice in her heart. She is more dangerous than any of your guard’s, I expect you will remember this?”

“Yes my lady,” The husband and wife chime together.

“Turn around,” The couple obliges and turns.

The woman lifts the mask covering her face. Her face is one that can drive any mortal insane, one of beauty in horror wrapped into one unknowable package. Her face would be burned into this child's memory, for better or for worse. The child giggles, smiling and reaching up as the woman whispers the blessings of her ancestors. Finally she allows the man and woman to turn around.

“Zulan will be her name.” She notes placing the child down gently into the cradle.

“That is a name for boys and men,” The man puffs regretting it the second the words slip from his.

The woman seizes his face in her left hand clenching his jaw. He can not see her eyes behidn the mask but her feels the utter terror that comes with lookign her in the eyes. He trembles like a newly born fawn as she lets him go.

“You best treat your wife better, you are no love of mine,” She hisses as the man huffs.

“I’m sorry for my husband,” The wife whispers lightly, rubbing her bare arms.

“Have not a worry dear,” The woman puts a hand on the wife's cheek leaning in and whispering something only the wife and the woman could hear. The woman wipes the wife's tears away before patting her shoulder and standing up straight to full height.

“Thank you,” The wife whispers shakily.

“Of course,” The woman hums, cracking a smile nobody but she could feel or see. “I will be taking my leave. You are not to contact me, unless it is for spring prayers or for the child's first, tenth birthday, by the twenty fifth I expect her to contact me herself,”

“Love please don’t-,” The woman puts up a hand.

“This begins now, I bid you both the lives you deserve,” With that the woman turns, walking out of the room to the still sobbing guard and the other trying desperately to comfort her.

The woman walks out of the palace and all the way to the forest beyond the palace. Woods full of creatures of the abyss, creatures made from her blood and the earth. She kneels by a softly glowing pool of water, sharp toothed creatures don’t dare bare their teeth as their mother takes off her gloves and soon her mask.

She washes the heat from her face. The skin on the left is peeling and wrinkled, rotting flesh bitten away by time. Her face once held otherworldly beauty on both sides, smooth skin, round cheeks and bright eyes. Then she shook hands with Death, the skin aged and peeled while the other side stayed youthful and bright.

As they say you reap what you sow, and she knows it better than anybody. She has not only paid with her life, but her death, for neither is fair.

Chapter 1

Crisp cold mountain air fills my lungs smoothly as I sit up. The Mountains of Yovishna are some of the most beautiful, not because of their height or because of its view of endless trees, but because it wraps me like a blanket. The air is thick with fog and humidity as I sit up, jaw stretching wide as I yawn. Birds chirp lightly and land on the branches as I take my hair down from its night wrap, protecting it from the harsh mountain grounds and weather.

I take the gold bands from my pack and begin taking thick pieces of hair and twisting them into even thicker braids which I finish off with my bands. After my hair has been taken care of I work my way down to the river and undress. I stop myself from fully submerging myself under water for my hair is already done and washed. I pick out my clothes meticulously. Bright fabrics of all different colors and patterns stare up at me as I choose my favorite shades of blues, greens and a splash of purple. The colors of a peacock, I’m not a peacock, I am no class at all so I am bound by no rules.

Once I have dressed, packed my things and rubbed medication into my legs, I start my walk down the mountains. The down hill is far easier than the uphill, yet I still heave myself over boulders and avoid other parts of nature that I would rather not interact with. I am used to walks like these, loosening and tightening my leg braces to fit the type of work I’m doing, keeping my spell book at my hip and double checking to be sure my beads hang at my neck. Now I have one more thing I keep checking, a letter.

The letter was sent to me at my temporary home at the banks of Arabora. At first the letter made me sick and I contemplated letting it burn or throwing it to the waves for my sea sister to laugh at. Then I bit my lip and considered how wondrous it would be to show the council what I have become, the runes and tattoo’s that decorate my skin, the beads of royalty given to me by my mother and the education I have acquired without their assistance. Pride and spite are the death of all things and yet I still allow them to impact my life in ways such as this.

Now I inch closer to the town I was brought to at ten and kicked out of at seventeen. The path is mostly empty, aside from a singular mule drawn wagon, I see no one on the gravel and dirt road. You would think by now silence would be my friend, but it is something I have not yet made friends with quite yet. I hum and whistle and sing, even bringing out my tambourine at one point, desperate to fill the void of silence with my noise. The birds of the sky swoop lower and the tree’s seem to bend with my sound. I spin and dance as much as my legs will allow today as the gates of the high city come into view.

The guards stand higher and stiller as I finish the notes of my song. Laugher bubbles in my throat as I slip my tamborine back into my satchel and the guard eye me carefully. One woman a little over half their ages can make them freeze in their boots. I take great pleasure in teasing them by acting as if I’m about to grab one of the beads at my neck, until finally bringing out my letter.

“Don’t worry gentlemen, I come in peace.” A smile pokes at my lips as I hand it to one of the guards.

“You can not be serious?” The guard asks, holding up the letter.

“Escort me to the council house if you must. To answer your question, though; I am indeed quite serious,” I chuckle, they all shiver as I do so.

“I’ll take you up on the escort offer,” The guard says, gesturing at one of the others.

“I don’t suggest you touch my arm,” I note as the guard assigned to me reaches for it. “Must I remind you of what and who I am?” The guard lets their hand drop and just gestures for me to follow as the gates creak open.

Crows flutter and squawk as I step foot into town and the guard immediately becomes tense. My dear mother is watching over me, for the crows are her’s. People think I am the same as my mother, powers blood curdling terrifying, they aren’t. I am not my mother, I am her child. While I have the power far beyond mortal scope, I am no death goddess, nor one of decay and darkness.

I have my own skills that can stand their own ground, terrifying in ways that are not as obvious. My mother is a creeping darkness, one that hangs in the air and makes you cold at night. My sister is an obvious terror one you can not run from or plan, earth that can suddenly swallow you, flooding that can kill a town and winds that will knock down the strongest of structers. My brother is an existential horror, somethign that begins bright and wonderful btu can drag and torture if it doesn’t do as you wish. My own horror is one of a person's own mind, thoughts twisting into confusing conjunctions, art that pours out of your soul for the world to see and the unending need for more, while also scared to see what is ahead.

It’s rather funny to me that people once thought that the gods were a source of good, a source of good for them to pray to and ask for things. The reality is gods are nothing but mortals who are more. They are made of more everything, more life and more magic especially. There is nothing inherently special about gods, the true specialty of them are their immortality, power and rarity. They are not saviors or higher beings, they are not but humans born out of more. To think otherwise is a fools notion.

As I walk the crowded streets of my former home people stare at me. Most are dressed in grays and browns with tiny pops of color, mostly sparrows and nightingales with an owl or hummingbird every once in a while. People's eyes pop seeing me in the shades of a peacock while being nothing short of an exile. It’s almost amusing watching mothers pull their children away and fathers chastise their elder sons and daughters for staring. My guard, a falcon, squirms as I begin humming my mothers song.

Eyes of ash and souls of coal

All life has been foretold

Down below no where else to go

My bones are steel my flesh is gold

My heart is hard and nothing short of cold

People’s face shift to terror and amazment as words leave my lips. Gods voices are more than mortals, they hold more power and more sound, mine more than others due to the powers gifted to me. My voice, mind and hands are my power. They are the things that make me who and what I am. A goddess of things lacking one before my birth. Song and voice being two.

We reach the town Council House, it's nothing short of extravagant. Gold pillars and accents around windows and doors. Windows stretch high and low shining brightly in the early morning sun peaking through the gray clouds. The gardens are large and winding with flora, clay bricks pressed with names of former council members. Snow peppers the grass and trees gentally. Students, studying to work in government, wander around clutching papers and boxes of mother knows what. The winter break begins tomorrow for Polvoshki, surely they are all finishing work so they won’t have to on their break.

I begin to sign again, this time a song of my own, a blessing to the student just desperate to please. I watch them move faster, the spark returns to their eyes and smiles even spread on faces. My guard become suspicious, but his mouth stays sealed as he pushes open the Council House doors, allowing me inside for the first time in five years.

The halls are crowded with a mixture of workers and students. Students draped in startling white robes rimmed with the colors of their future class. Workers are a mix of owls, dressed in whites browns and some reds, falcons, grays browns and deep blues, cardinals, reds, yellows, white and black, and hummingbirds bright pinks, greens, yellows and purples. All are sharp and now people don’t take time out of their day to ogle instead continuing onto wherever they are needed. Plaques and paintings hang on the walls, councilors, intelligent workers and historical events all have paintings. Artifacts sit in magically sealed cases, shimmering swords, ancient jewelry and stolen artifacts.

I ask my guard about his studies, seeing he has a student band around his wrist, he doesn’t respond with an answer but just tells me to keep moving. I hum away as we reach the crystal double doors, they’re translucent and carved with the symbols of the gods before me, how disrespectful of them to not add one for me. Despite their blatant disrespect I walk past the guards flinging the doors open with no more effort than that it takes to lift a leaf.

The six councilors sit in a giant U shape, each sitting upon what can only be called a throne. Malvaria Bosque, the head of owls sit’s closest to the door on the right. Next to Malvaria sit’s the head of swans, Alexine Porvan. One the left sit’s Sir Torvil Halborine, head of the falcons and next to him sit’s Pavarti Tala, head of cardinals. Lastly in the middle of it all is head councilor Thomas Meverin, a peacock and next to him is his wife Dr. Ulissia Shambori, head of hummingbirds.

“Why hello council members, I didn’t expect to see you all so soon-,” I puse grining taking in their faces of shock at my relaxed tone, “-I thought I’d see you when I go to visit my mother!” I laugh, but they recoil glaring at me as I pull on the band at my wrist whipping out my cane to lean on.

“Ms. Z-,”

“Ah sorry Mx. Alexine but it would be Dr. Zulan , I didn’t go to school for nothing!” I grin as their eyes widen to the size of plates.

“Well Dr. Zulan Samir-Covilch, the council has taken your exile into deep consideration over the past few months, and we are willing to lift your ban,” Head councilor Meverin is an older man, at least fifteen years older than his wife, his hair is mostly white and his dark blue robes clash with his piercingly red eyes.

“If the ban is to be lifted though, you must work for the council house for a minimum of four years as a falcon at bronze rank, to be sure of your loyalty,” The second the words leave young Sir Halbotine’s lips I let a sharp laugh escape the depths of my chest, for a good few minutes I can’t stop and I steady myself with my walking stick.

“You know I’m not quite sure what else I should have expected!” My eyes glaze over all the councilors.

“It’s only five years, isn’t that nothing to someone such as yourself?” Mrs. Bosque asks sharply.

“Mrs. Bosque I am still but a young god! Five years is still five years to many! I will work for you soon as I will die by a mortal blade, so unless you perform a miracle my loyalties lie with no one but myself!” My voice has grown too loud for their mortal ears and they clutch them, as I feel magic pulse through my veins as smoothly as blood.

“You are an immature child,” Head Counselor Meverin hisses as he removes his hand from his ears.

“Hm thank you for pointing that out, I didn’t notice I thought I was a thousand years of age!” this actually get’s a slight chuckle from Dr. Shambori, who promptly hides her mouth behind her hand.

“Well the offer still stands, Dr. Samir. If you change your mind, send a letter to my department,” Mrs. Bosque signs pinching her tiny nose.

“I don’t think I will, but that is noted,” I shrug, glancing around. “That’s really all I have to say,”

“Does anybody have anything to add to the discussion of Dr. Samir’s statements or possible return to Kolspo?” Head Counselor Meverin asks, I raise my hand with a small smile.

“I think you should put my symbol on the door.” The counselors all turn towards the crystal doors.

“That is noted, but irrelevant-,” Councilor Meverin picks up his bell, that stupid bell, “-meeting adjourned!” With that all the councilorse begin to get out of their seats, except Dr. Shambori.

Dr. Shambori, a young looking woman, stares at me with wide green eyes. I remember when I was first cast out of Kolspo, she barely spoke, just staring at me as my heart-parents hugged me tightly and I weeped. Her large green eyes are rather similar to one of my own, it’s strange and it makes me uncomfortable. Finally though after a good moment of just staring at each other she turns away, walking off with her insufferable husband who did this to me in the first place.

After the council leaves I stand waiting for a guard to collect me, but none comes. I wait a bit longer, no one comes. I’ll take it as a sign I’m allowed to leave on my own, good I still wish to go see my heart-parents, this will be the first time in years I’ve been able to see them for the winter holidays. Most years I’m able to sneak into town for the summer solstice, but I can rarely make it in for winter holidays like Polvoshki. Priscilla and Rey will be excited, in fact Rey probably knows I’m here already seeing how much the wind talks to him.

By the time I’m back outside snow has begun to fall and my legs are aching more. I’ll take a potion when I get to my childhood home, Rey always has them practically lying around. The streets have begun to thin due to the lack of things to do midday, and most children being in school. I’m grateful for the clear path but eventually I grow tired and decide walking is a bit too tiring.

I find a nice shadow, a big one covering a large scope of ground, before pressing my foot hard against the earth. Most times I will walk right over shadows, but when I call upon the powers of my mother I melt right through the ground and into the void of shadows. I hold my breath, searching for a shadow close to my destination. I find on under the tree across from my home pulling myself out of it, rather ungracefully.

I cough as cloudy shadow air exits my lungs and I straighten up, staring at the neighbor who stopped to watch me. I wave at her, she waves back before continuing on. Turning around I come face to face with my heart-fathers winter garden, stark blue and white flowers all powdered with snow.

The smells of spices and baked goods floats through the front garden, Rey is already preparing for Polvoshki, as he always does. I remember helping him make pie and pastry crusts as a young girl into teenagehood, Priscilla tried to help once, but we never made that mistake again. The smells of the garden and baking remind me of a comfortable childhood. They were the first people to make me feel secure and sure, still they feel like that anchor keeping me coming back.

It’s nice to be home.

Types of people:

(Powers listed are not always present, but are common)

Common folk or lower class

Sparrows: Farmers, blacksmiths, carpenters and other physical laborers

Nightingales: Teachers, town seamstresses, stay at home parents and other citizens

Crows/Vultures:Grave diggers, sick bay keepers, and generally the gritting and gross jobs (high disease resistance)

Upper Middle class

Falcons: Military/fighters (enhanced strength and speed)

Cardinals: Investigators and archaeologists/anthropologists (resistance to harsh temperatures and environments)

Owls: Scientists (of all kinds), professors and office workers (enhanced intelligence and literacy)

Hummingbirds: Doctors, health professionals and priests (empaths and healers)

Swans: Performers and artists (enhanced beauty, creativity and grace)

High class

Peacocks: Royalty and the high councilor

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hope y'all liked this! Reviews are very welcome!


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370 Reviews


Points: 15455
Reviews: 370

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Fri Oct 21, 2022 4:33 pm
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Liminality wrote a review...



Hiya! Lim here with a review!
I feel like this might be a revision of a previous story of yours I have reviewed, as the prologue seems familiar, but it’s been a while since I read that one, so I’ll treat this as a new work. It looks like you’ve added more worldbuilding details too, so that’s another reason for me to have a look with fresh eyes, methinks.

First Impressions
The prologue had the atmosphere of a fairy tale somewhat, especially with the place being called the “Library of Dreams” and the arrival of a mysterious woman to the birth of a child. I thought the relationship between the queen and the woman was interesting – there seems to be more going on there than meets the eye, especially with the line:

“Have not a worry dear,” The woman puts a hand on the wife's cheek leaning in and whispering something only the wife and the woman could hear.

The story starts off with a lot of mystery. Who is the woman? What will become of Zulan? Those are the questions that come to mind and I’m curious to read on and find out.
The POV switch to that of Zulan in Chapter 1 was a bit unexpected. I have to confess I spent a while thinking the narrator of Chapter 1 was still the woman from the prologue until I puzzled it out ^^’ In any case, I thought it has a good balance between introducing aspects of the setting and giving hints to the plot of the story, such as Zulan’s conflict with the Council.

Characters
I thought your characterisation was on-point for most of the characters’ moments. The introduction of the woman in the beginning was dramatic and impactful, which definitely conveys to me the thought that she’s different from the others and has great supernatural/ magical power.
As she walks past people drop to their knees clenching their hands together desperately. She ignores all of them, eyes glazing over them like they’re nothing more than bugs, to her they almost seem to be such.

The juxtaposition here is quite disconcerting, which again conveys the feeling that this character is a deity/ supernatural being of some sort.
“Will she be okay?” The wife asks with tears welling in her eyes for a child that isn’t her’s.

I also found the councillor’s wife really likeable from this line on– she comes across as being kind-hearted.
Something I else I liked was the paragraph explaining Zulan’s family. I thought it gave a bit more context to her role and powers in this setting, and I like the idea that her mother is keeping an eye on her via the crows.

Setting
There’s quite a lot of setting description to digest in Chapter 1 particularly. I like that her route to the council meeting is being described, since that shows me more of the world. I feel like I’m being set up for a very intricate fantasy plot with lots of interesting supporting characters and locations. I do feel a bit confused at times by the order of the descriptions, for example:
Crows flutter and squawk as I step foot into town and the guard immediately becomes tense.

Since the guards were mentioned before and the crows are ‘new’ to the story, I think this sentence would read better if the guards came first and the crows were brought in at the end, maybe with something like: The guard immediately becomes tense as I step foot into town and crows flutter and squawk.
Most are dressed in grays and browns with tiny pops of color, mostly sparrows and nightingales with an owl or hummingbird every once in a while.

I initially didn’t understand that the bird names were referring to types of people, because this sentence could also be interpreted metaphorically, with “sparrows” referring to the colours of clothes.
I like how Zulan’s family home contrasts with the Council House in terms of descriptions. Where the Council House is extravagant and busy, filled with people and bright colours, the family home is described as being mostly blue and white.

Overall
The story at this point is going at a more gradual pace, which I think matches the Fantasy/Lit genre! I’m curious to see how Zulan’s character will develop and whether this situation about her exile will come up with her family.

Hope some of this helps and feel free to ask for more feedback!
-Lim






I'm so glad you enjoyed the story! If you want to read more I actually do have the rest of chapter 1 and all of chapter 2 up if you'd like to read it!
Thank you for your kind review!
-Sunflower



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22 Reviews


Points: 29
Reviews: 22

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Tue Sep 27, 2022 12:20 pm
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HJYoung wrote a review...



I liked this story a lot.

I really don’t have much(or for that matter, have enough time) to say about the SPaG, so I will stick to the plot, narration/description and lore.

What you did best was the lore, by far. Your portrayal of gods interacting with humans and how they are simply humans, but born from ‘more’, is unique and you explore the ramifications of this in both dialogue and internal thoughts of the character(s).

In essence, the mentioning of the supposed nature of gods as believed by mortals is a great contrast to the belief that the main character holds. You made these gods relatable, which is always nice.

The narration/description was nice as well, and the vocabulary you used was fitting. Not much to say, again.

The plot is compelling, and leaves the reader with plenty of questions; which I assume will be answered in the next chapter, quite likely. The beginning about the baby and their parents is a good introduction to our main character. The mixture of reverence, fear, and defiance which the council deals with the main character is also interesting and realistic; they want to make her a fighter for their side. Keep this up!

Anyways this was a rather short review, but I hope you have a good day.






Thank you so much for your kind review! You just made my day!




Be led by your talent and not by your self-loathing ... everything beautiful in the world is within you.
— Russell Brand