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Dandelion and Thistledown (1/4)

Part One Part Two Part Three Part Four

I still feel that this is my signature piece. It was one of the few I still had up on my Elfy shelf, and now that's gone, I wanted to put it up here. Apologies for spamming those who are already familiar with it. I'm doing a quick tidying job on it, mostly to fix continuity errors which have arisen since I wrote it. I didn't know very much about the Saisorhi back in 2004 (oh, blissful days!), so I got a few things wrong in the original version of this.

For those who've not encountered this before, this is Nimbus' debut. Aylili is a semi-feral child living on the rooftops of the besieged city of Isola, but when a mysterious and extraordinary stranger appears on her roofs, she begins to face her past. Featuring creepy nursery rhymes, roof-running and drunken antics on washing lines.

Title: Dandelion and Thistledown (1/4)
Words: 6010
Warnings: Um, drunkeness? Verbosity?

Moonflowers and hollyhocks,
Baked our dinner out of rocks…

Aylili listened to the children singing, their frail voices like lace in the still, cold air. She listened to the swish of the skipping rope and the thud of feet against the grey cobbles. She did not look down. She never looked down. Their world was not her world. Not any more.

“Morning glory and daffodil,
Sister’s gone to write her will…”

They were all absorbed in their game: they would not see her passing.

The rough chimney pot was warm along her side and she pressed closer, despite the scrape of the bricks against her bare arms. Then, savouring the warmth, she sprang away from the chimney and ran lightly along the ridge of the roof, the tiles cold and smooth beneath her bare feet.

“Dandelion and thistledown,
Bury her in her wedding gown…”

She made no more sound than a whisper as she ran the length of the terrace, her fine, rain-tangled hair lifting off her face as she leapt the alleyway to the next terrace, skittering on across the roofs of Isola. Isola the fair, the city of poets; Isola the silver, the sea-girt queen of the world;Isola the glorious, where the Alchemist Dukes had reigned since civilisation began. Isola the forsaken.

Heartsease and buttercup,
With the dead she’ll gladly sup…

The voices were fading behind her now as she ran east, her gaze darting across the roofs as she went, looking, checking, tensing at the slightest hint of change.

But on this boundary there was only the tracery of the wind’s footsteps, the dry leaves swirled along the gutters, a new layer of ash on the lips of the chimney stacks. Hesitating to gaze across the city, Aylili shivered in her rags. It was a cold autumn and the winter would be harder still. There would be no kindling for her; no shards from the felled houses close upon the wall, battered by the mangonels and trebuchets.

The wind was rising now and she could smell the bitter tang of ashes as it sighed in from the north. They had used widowmaker’s fire again this week. She had heard the rumours as she crouched among the chimney pots, listening to the old men mutter and mumble of unquenchable flames and flesh running like wax. She had seen the boy in Wisdom Square, who had left his father’s shop for the wall, whistling like a lark set free, and come back again, blind and broken, to rock on the step and moan as the shadows of the gulls’ wings brushed his scarred face. She had watched the flames come rising, black rims on red velvet, shimmering cracks across pale stones as the music faltered and died.

But that was in another time; in someone else’s life, and she would not think on it. Instead she ran, dashing along the boundaries of the roofs she knew, her secret world. The clouds flowed above her, racing on the breath of the wind until their shadows criss-crossed the tiles and made her footing treacherous.

She did not fall: she was Aylili, roof-brat, bird-caller, sky-runner. However, she slowed her intemperate pace and began to watch her surroundings again. These roofs were hers; her home and haven. She would not share and she had set her traps for trespassers: broken gutters which would not bear a climber’s weight, stiff seagrass uprooted from neglected gardens to line low roofs, patterns of thin twigs glued in place with fish paste so they would break below a footfall but be untouched by the wind.

All her traps were undisturbed but she drifted on across the roofs, unsatisfied. For the last few days she had not felt alone on the roofs. She told herself sternly that she was slipping over the faded line between sanity and madness, but it did not ease her fears. She was on the western edge of her territory now with the broken towers of the palace to her left and the sea shimmering before her, as the last rows of grey-shaled roofs dipped down towards the docks. She could see the chain across the harbour mouth and the glimmering wall of spells which hung from it. Beyond the spells she could see the shadowy shapes of the black ships prowling, quiescent now but ready to begin the bombardment as soon as the city relaxed its guard.

The sun was setting to her right, beyond the Westerly Beacon which shone pale to show that Isola still held for the Light, though the Dark had besieged the city these seven years. The windows of the palace were shining like tears and Aylili, who rose with the dawn and slept with the dusk, knew it was time to find a place to stop. Usually she curled up on the tiles where the heat of the sun would wake her. These last few days, wary and afraid, she had sought out sheltered places, overhangs and corners. There was a place, a mere few roofs away, where four chimney stacks rose close together. There was a space between them, warm and snug, though tight. A full grown adult would never fit there, but Aylili was fourteen and half-starved and it suited her perfectly.

She danced across the roofs, letting the wind play tatterling with her hair and the ragged ends of her dress, tacked together from scraps and patches. The road below was Pearl Street where the traders still gathered. She could hear the old women selling their beets and potatoes, but paid no heed as she headed for the crossroads with Port Road. There, on the corner, rose her four chimneys.

But as she stepped onto the roof she saw she was not alone. A man sat huddled by the chimneys, wrapped in a ragged black cloak. His head was bowed, and she could not see his face, though she noted the glossy, black curls tumbling past his shoulders. No starveling, this.

Angry, Aylili dropped onto the slope of the roof and began to creep towards him. He was a trespasser: the trespasser she had been fearing and she would not let him put her out of her bed. She slid along the tiles as the wind brushed her back, stiff with anger. She would see what manner of man this was and, if need be, she would drive him away. She had a dagger, an old gutting knife she had stolen from the quay, and she worked it free of her belt and clutched it close against her side. When she judged she was right under the chimneys she tensed against the tiles and hurled herself upwards, swinging her arms forward.

She landed on the ridge of the roof, the knife thrust forward, her long, bare toes giving her more grip than any shoes.

The man started awake. With a bellow of rage, he lunged forward. His ragged cloak snapped backwards and suddenly the sky was thick with shadows. It had been no cloak and now it was Aylili’s turn to flinch as black wings beat at her face.

“Begone!” the man bellowed, his lean face flushed and contorted. “Get thee gone, foul creature!” And he thrust his hands forward and flames snapped out of his palms, seeking her.

Aylili ran.

The wind was at her back and, with panic in her heels, she would only have been faster if she too had had wings.

She ran into the setting sun, trusting her feet to carry her over the familiar roofs even as the light left her dazzled and blinking. She hoped he would not pursue her from the sky, trusted in the light to confuse him. He had been on the roofs bare days – she would have found him sooner if he had dwelt here before. But she had been here these seven years. This was her world. He couldn’t track her through it.

When, at last, she dared look back, there was no sign of him. Subdued and edgy, she made her way through the silver dusk to the edge of the docks. The gulls were already congregating, diving and squabbling along the edges of the quay. Before long they would settle for the night and she hurried her steps until she reached the last roof. The building had been the warehouse of the Clothiers’ Guild in years gone by; now it was a squat for the orphans of the war, governed by a handful of star priests too crippled or elderly to be of use on the walls. If they could catch her they would put her with those puling, groundbound brats, but she was Aylili, too swift for them, too clever. It delighted her to feast on their roof.

Sitting up there, she unhooked the pipe she wore beside her knife and began to play. It was a mere crude wooden whistle, but she closed her eyes and invoked all her memories of the wind, and it became a fey, eerie sound, tuneless yet compelling. And when she opened her eyes the birds had come, as they always did, gathering on the tiles at her feet, cooing and cawing to underscore her melody.

She blew another rill and they went wheeling out across the water, diving and shrieking. They returned with fish, gleaming and glittering with salt. Aylili ate them raw, as the birds did, tearing with her knife where they used beaks and claws. When she was done she wiped her greasy hands on her bare legs. The grease protected her against the fierce wind which chapped her legs raw otherwise.

She settled there to wait for the moon, and as she waited she thought about the creature by the chimneys. She had heard the stories of the summonings of the Dark, fell and foul monsters. If the Dark had sent such a making to soar over Isola, the city was doomed.

But in her other memories, the memories of the Aylili from before the roofs, before the war, there were wings. She remembered the music of the gavotte, the bright-gowned dancers on the polished floor, the bright-hued dancers lifting glossy wings towards the air. Music and laughter and candlelight. The scent of flowers and the gift of a feather.

That too was ashes.

Then the clouds parted and the moon shone through. Aylili lifted her face from her knees and was surprised to find the birds had gone and the eye of the night watched over her. It was time to act. Memory or monster – he would not drive her from her roofs. If she was to be rid of him, though, she needed to know which he was.

So, with the pale moon above her and the wind beside her, she went back to the four chimneys.


Aylili watched the four chimneys from the next roof, tucked into a shadow so the moon would not betray her pale hair. On the next roof the winged man paced, ranting to himself.

His wings, she saw now, were not dull black but gleamed, even under moonlight, like oil in water, purple and orange and green. His hair and brows were the same dark hue and his skin was olive. As he stormed back and forth along the roof his wings flared, keeping him balanced.

Aylili, used to birds, was fascinated by those wings. The urge to touch them, even just to see them closer, tempted her nearer. They were as long as he was tall, soaring wings, and she wondered how they could bear the weight of a man. He was slender enough and not over-tall, but his bare chest and shoulders were thick with muscles. They were also criss-crossed with scars: thin, white lines and newer, redder cuts. He wore a dirty pair of loose trousers, tied at the ankles, and two curved swords with worn handles hung from his belt. His feet were bare and Aylili could see that his toes were abnormally long, even longer than hers.

Now she could hear his words and she leant forward to listen, telling herself she sought clues to his identity; that it was not the sight of wings that fascinated her.

“Oh, most renowned of heroes,” he was spitting. “Proudest of the proud, champion of champions. Witness the incomparable Nimbus, terroriser of children, scourge of the starving, harasser of the harmless! O, who will sing of the glorious deed! O, a victory, Nimbus, such a victory.” Then he snapped his wings back and roared across the roofs, “Imbecile! Bully! Monster!”

Aylili jumped and lost her footing. She slid noisily down the roof to land with a thump at the winged man’s feet. Winded, she stared at him in dismay. The moonlight rimmed him with silver and his black wings blocked out the stars.

He folded his wings away and crouched down. Staring at her he said, with mild bewilderment, “You came back.” Then he let out a short laugh and said, “It seems the children of Isola are not yet mice. There is still hope.”

Aylili blinked up at him in utter confusion and tried to shuffle away. He might not be of the Dark but he was clearly insane. The movement made her realise that she had scraped her leg as she fell and she winced.

The man immediately knelt beside her. “Are you injured?”

She shook her head. It was only a scratch.

A light flared suddenly and she felt her eyes widen as she realised that it glowed around his hand. He was a mage, too. That explained the fire he had wielded earlier. She was so intent on the revelation that she did not avoid him when he lowered the light to examine her leg.

“Vile and despicable,” he muttered to himself. “But true, no more than a scratch. But a scratch can kill.” He fell silent and shivered, and Aylili thought, though the moonlight confused her eyes, that he paled.

Daring much, she touched his arm and he jumped and said to her, “It must be cleaned. At once.”

Aylili, who had scorned such things before, shook her head, and then fought wildly as he scooped her into his arms. He ducked her flailing fists and gripped her more firmly as he strode along the roofs.

“Fresh water!” he boomed in her ear. “Clear and beauteous, the tears of the rain to cleanse a wound. Or if we cannot find fresh water we will use vinegar, though it will sting, perchance.”

Aylili redoubled her struggles.

“Hush, child,” he said absently. “I cannot see in this maze!” And he spread his wings, ran three steps along the ridge of the roof and hurled himself into the sky.

The wind rushed around them, lifting Aylili’s pale hair to tangle and swirl around them. The breath rushed out of her and she ceased to struggle.

They were inside the moonlight, and the world below them was as silver as the sea, a vast, shimmering leaf with the dark streets as its veins.

The distant boom of an explosion growled through the night. The man’s grip on Aylili tightened convulsively, and he swung towards the sound, wings tilting. Far away, over the roofs towards the wall, fire glimmered in an orange line.

“Dead,” he breathed. “Who’s dead? Oh, Light, who now?”

They hovered there for a moment, and she feared he might take off for the wall, carrying her with him. But after a long silence he began to rise again, circling slowly over the city. Aylili, grasped safely in his arms, looked down and tried to find the streets she knew, but it was all too strange. She wondered if she ought to be afraid, snatched away as she had been, but this was a higher world than the one she had chosen and her fears there meant nothing here.

Then he dived, and she gasped and clung to him, feeling the muscles move in his shoulders. She saw a glistening plain on the flat roof before them, and then they were landing with a thump that shook her bones to the teeth.

He set her down gently, and she saw it had been moonlight shimmering in water that had caught his attention. She was still so dazed by the moonlight and the sky that she simply let him clean the graze.

He talked as he worked but she did not listen, staring at the stars and dreaming of the wind on her skin. At last he said impatiently, “What is your name, child?”

She stared at him in dismay.

He asked again.

She shook her head.

“Can’t you speak?” he asked softly.

She shook her head again.

“Do you have any family? Anyone to care for you?”

Again, warily.

“Is that all you can do?”

She studied him for a moment and then, with a ghost of a smile, nodded.

He grinned and applauded and said, “If you cannot speak your name you must know mine. I am, as you have surely guessed, Nimbus cor Evasta.”

The name meant nothing to Aylili and it must have shown for he said, indignantly, “It is no matter to joke upon, you tease of a child.”

She shook her head and raised her hands in a shrug.

He wilted. “Has my fame not gone before me? Do the streets not resound with my name? Have they ceased to sing of my glory?”

Aylili shrugged.

“You’ve never heard of me at all? Oh, what will become of this world?”

If she had still chosen to laugh, she would have. Nimbus grinned at her and said, “Better, featherling.”

Aylili flinched.

Nimbus frowned. “I mean you no harm. Oh, what has become of Isola? Why are you here, child? Silent, half-starved, afraid..”

Aylili glared at him. She was not afraid of anything.

“…but courageous,” he added smoothly. “In the old days you would not have been abandoned up here.”

She had no gestures to express, ‘I chose this exile.’

After a moment, Nimbus sighed. “Stay here, featherling. I will return anon.”

He ran off the end of the roof, leaping upwards to catch the wind beneath his wings. Her breath caught as he spiralled upwards, and then darted away into the night. She still thought he was mad, but he was undeniably beautiful.

He was away long enough that Aylili could drink some of the cold water and find a corner snug enough to sleep in. When he returned he was heavily laden and she watched in amazement as he dumped a load of wood on the roof with a clatter and efficiently built a small fire.

She lay and gazed at the flickering flames until her eyes blurred with sleep. Nimbus was careful to keep his wings clear of the flames, and she rested her eyes by studying his feathers, so soft and black in their glossy ranks.

“Are you asleep yet, little one?”

She was too sleepy to respond but he kept talking anyway. “What could be better than this?”

A thousand things, Aylili thought.

“What more do we need? We have warmth and good companionship. Food, I admit, would be a welcome luxury, but we will survive without, I daresay. Now, a drink. Or two. That would be good. The wine of Tarrass, the mountain ales of Varulqa, cider from the orchards of Avaralle. Even vodka!” He raised his voice and bellowed into the night, “I want a drink! I just want a Light-damned drink!”

The birds roosting under the eaves woke, squawking, and a window below slammed open and a man yelled, “Don’t we all, man, but keep it down, will you?”

Aylili decided the most tactful reaction would be to close her eyes and pretend to be asleep.

When she awoke he was gone.


By the time she saw him again the first frost had come and gone and the puddles were webbed with ice each dawn. Aylili’s dreams had been full of feathers, soft and warm and smothering. They had been strange and feverish dreams which left her dazed and weeping when the bite of the cold ripped her out of sleep.

She refused to admit he was responsible for the dreams – were his wings not as black as oil whilst the feathers in her dreams were as pale as the sun? All the same, she grew restless as she circled the roofs along her usual paths. Her thoughts were like the last leaves on the wind, scattered and erratic and contradictory. She found herself scanning the sky for dark wings; starting eagerly at every shadow. And whispering through her memories was the music of the piccolo, the scent of cedar and sandalwood, the dust of feathers on the ballroom floor, the hiss and crack of flames.

Soon, she would not be able to run fast enough, and for the first time she began to look beyond the roofs she knew. Perhaps on some other roof she could become some other person. She knew, though, that if she left she would have to go back, retrace her steps to the burnt place, the destroyed place. So she thought, Not yet. Not yet, and continued to run the roofs.

It was a bright afternoon when the uproar attracted her. She could hear voices raised in anger and panic and, to her bemusement, singing. Intrigued, she raced over the roofs to see what was happening.

The streets were narrow here and the roofs were flat. Below her people lived in tiny rooms, crammed fifty to a house. It was a long way to the ground. Thin lines hung between the buildings, weighed down by laundry, row on row. She could remember, very vaguely, how it felt to hurry along one of those streets through the soft rain from the lines, the scent of soap around her.

She could hear the words of the song now, and she thought she knew the voice. Abandoning caution, she dashed across the remaining roofs towards the singer.

Nimbus was balanced on the highest washing line, his toes wrapped around the cord and his wings spread wide for balance. He was brandishing a bottle in one hand and was singing, at full volume, “I don’t want to join the army, I don’t want to go to war…”

Aylili, who had heard the song before, winced and pondered covering her ears.

“I don’t want my…”

“Would it shut you up, you drunken bastard!”

“…bollocks shot away..” Nimbus raised his voice, drowning out the hecklers on the street below. “I’d rather be in Tarrass…”

“Then go there!” A new voice. Aylili crept closer to the edge of the roof and glanced down. People were hanging out of windows all along the street.

“Merry, merry Tarrass…”

Someone pointed at her and she shot back from the edge, shaking. She looked up again to see Nimbus howl out the last line with a flourish and empty the bottle down his throat. He hurled the bottle away and whooped with glee before he tipped backwards off the line.

His wings beat once, throwing him back up, and he swayed atop the rope, his toes clinging tightly. Then he did it again, laughing gleefully. The street below had fallen silent.

Wobbling, he launched into song again. “Why did we join the army, boys? Why did we join the army?” He went backwards again and hung for a second. Bellowing. “Why did we arm the walls to fight?” Up again. “We must have been drunk and - whoops.” Down and up. “Why did we join the army, boys?” Down. “Why did we join the army?” Up. “Why did we arm – whoops!”

One foot slipped off the rope and he dangled for a long moment, waving his loose leg above him. Then he pushed up, his wings flaring, and regained his footing.

“Where’s my vodka? Which of you bastards stole my vodka?” He leant forwards to point at the watching crowd and rocked forward and then backwards again.

Aylili looked at him and imagined what would happen if he fell. The street was crossed with washing lines, meshed like a net. His wings would tangle and snap and he would fall broken into that grey and fetid world.

“Give me back me my drink! Do you know who I am?”

Aylili stood.

The movement seemed to attract his attention for he glared towards her. “Bring me my drink, featherling! Bring me my Light-damned drink!”

She shook her head and beckoned to him, hoping to infuriate him into making for safer ground.

“Do you dare command me! I will not be cowed! I have looked on Darkness and remained unbroken! I have fought the hungry ones in Moradin! I have held the Cedar Gates! I rode through the Tírial gate and lived! I am Nimbus cor Evasta and I deserve a bloody drink!”

Aylili was not impressed. This had to stop. While he was still ranting she made her way down the roof. The line Nimbus was balancing on stretched out of the highest window, almost a metre below her, and for a moment she wavered. Then she reminded herself that the world below meant nothing to her, that it did not really exist, and lowered herself off the edge of the roof.

She had crossed the lines before, though always at a run, and she knew how to wrap her toes around them and spread her arms for balance. She heard a gasp from below and then silence, but focused on Nimbus where he swayed ahead of her. Another step and she was away from the roof, the wind stirring at her back.

Now Nimbus saw her. He choked and spluttered on his rant and shook his head at her urgently.

“Go back!” he said. “Go back!”

She paused, swaying slightly with the wind, and shook her head. Carefully, she raised her hand and pointed at him, before gesturing to the roof beyond.

He glared at her. “I will not! I am content here! Am I not a creature of the sky?”

Aylili sighed and took another step forwards. Her foot slipped on the rope and for a moment she swayed. Nimbus grabbed for her, but she was beyond his reach and for a moment they both swung and swayed for balance as the rope recoiled beneath them. For the first time Aylili wondered if it was strong enough to bear them both.

Nimbus waited for the rope to grow still and then stepped forward. His wings were stretched to the full, and Aylili could see the patterns on each feather, gleaming green and gold in the winter sunlight.

“Can you step backwards?” he asked her, and she realised that he was suddenly, alarmingly, sober.

She tried to slid her foot backwards and slipped.

Nimbus’ hands shot out and he seized her shoulders, lifting her off the line. She clutched at his arms as her feet flailed for a grip.

“Enough!” he roared and leapt upwards. The line recoiled up to meet his feet and he shot into the sky, pulling Aylili after him. She screamed as his black wings thrashed the air around her and screamed again as he threw her against his shoulder, clamping his arm around her waist. The birds came rising from the roofs to whirl around him and she kicked him in the shin as he turned and dived, so fast his hair whipped her face. She could feel his shoulders wrenching as he fought to control the dive.

He landed so hard he knocked the breath from her lungs and deposited her on the tiles with bruising force.

“Have you entirely lost your mind? What in Farailin’s name inspired you to do something so imbecilic, so reckless, so foolhardy? Never, in all my days, have I been so appalled!”

Aylili had caught her breath enough to be angry. She threw herself to her feet and shoved him backwards. She pointed at herself scornfully and then at him, with both hands, angrily.

“Speak, damn you!” Nimbus roared.

She shook her head wildly and crossed her hands before her face, refusing to defer to him.

“I know you can,” he said, his voice low and intent. “You cried out. You are not mute! So speak!”

She shook her head again and was enraged to feel tears prickle the corners of her eyes. Nimbus must have seen for he grabbed her wrists and pulled them apart so he could stare at her face. She glared back, her lips set. For twenty heartbeats they stood there, locked in anger, then Nimbus released her and turned away.

He leant against the chimney, face against the bricks and his wings trailing down the grey slates. “I apologise,” he said, his voice muffled. “That was ungentle.”

Aylili gaped.

Nimbus hugged the chimney closer and said, desolately, “Where’s my drink? I want my drink.” Then he slid down the chimney and passed out along the ridge of the roof.


He was still asleep the next dawn. Aylili, who had kept careful watch over him, was beginning to feel disgruntled. And hungry. And thirsty. And her bladder hurt. At last she decided that if he hadn’t fallen in the last fifteen hours he was probably safe and left him to sleep.

When she came back he was awake. He had propped himself against the chimney and wrapped his wings around his knees. He glared out at her from below dark feathers and snarled, “Water! Food!” Then he dragged his wings back over his face.

Aylili was tempted to pour water over his head and leave him to his misery. After yesterday, however, she was sure he wasn’t capable of looking after himself. She wasn’t altogether happy to discover her conscience was troubling her so she prodded his wings hard and shoved the saucer of water at him when he recoiled.

Whilst he drank she sat on the very end of the roof, her feet dangling, and began to pipe. She played scales, partly to exercise her cold fingers, partly because she thought they might annoy him. When he made no comment she closed her eyes and let the wind brush around her. She could feel the winter sun on her back and smell cooking fires and the distant, bitter tang of burning from the wall. Slowly she drifted into melody, tracing the formal cycles of the music in her mind, round and round and round. It was not until the fourth repetition that she recognised the music of the gavotte in her memories.

She broke off with a discordant gurgle and bent forward, clutching her pipe until her hands throbbed.

She heard soft steps behind her and Nimbus said gently, “I remember that measure. It was the fashion, before the Dark came, in all the great houses of Isola. I remember dancing to it, in the embassy of the Light, with all my fallen brethren. I miss them still. There is no shame in mourning, featherling.”

She unbent herself and stared out across the roofs of Isola. Then she lifted her pipe back to her lips and began to call the birds.

She heard Nimbus gasp as they came wheeling in, bearing fish. But he did not comment until they had gone weeping out to sea again. Then he intervened firmly when Aylili would have started to eat. Much to her disgust, he insisted on cleaning and cooking the fish, setting up a makeshift spit above a small fire. As they roasted he said, almost casually, “Have you always been able to call the birds?”

Aylili, who was hungry, shrugged one shoulder and tried to grab a fish off the spit. Nimbus intercepted her smoothly and said, “Did your parents teach you to pipe?”

She shrugged again.

“Can you remember?”

She shook her head. She did not want to remember. She was Aylili, and she could call the birds. What did it matter where she had learnt the skill?

“You are a mystery, dear child. A veritable puzzle.”

Aylili scowled. She wasn’t a child, and she didn’t want to be a mystery.

“I adore mysteries,” Nimbus announced, prodding the fish. “Solving them is so diverting. I think this is done. Are you hungry, dear child?”

Aylili pounced.

As she shrieked with dismay Nimbus stretched out a wing and batted her hurled fish back towards the fire.

“Too hot, featherling?”

Aylili sucked her burnt fingers and pretended she could not hear him laugh.


( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Feb. 24th, 2008 12:26 pm (UTC)
I made them up, but I read up on nursery rhymes first, so they're not too implausible.

:) Thanks.

Any nitpicks you do find are gratefully received, but I've been through this a few times now, so I've picked up a lot of the obvious ones. Of course, commas and semicolons are a constant bugbear of mine ;) I stripped out a lot of stray semicolons when I was reading this through the other day.

Good pick. I was thinking about her life on the rooftops, but that doesn't fit if she's staring at the streets. Thanks :)

*grins* It's a common pet name for a child in his culture.

I adore Nimbus, even when he steals stories and generally drives me insane. He's such a joy to write, because he's a genuinely good guy under all the bravado and melodrama.

Thank you for the lovely comment :) I'm glad you enjoyed this - it's one of my favourites.
Mar. 8th, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
Aaaah... And to reread this at last. ^-^

I love the idea of voices being like lace. ^-^ It's very, very easy for me to picture. Very pretty imagery there.

They were all absorbed in their game: they would not see her passing. <- not a semi-colon? *curious, mostly*

she sprang away from the chimney and ran lightly <- not sure you need to specify the chimney. It's mildly repetitive with the compound 'chimney pot', but it does work this way. Try both and see which you prefer?

he sea-girt queen of the world;Isola the glorious, <- missed a space, there. I do love the interwoven nursery rhyme there. It adds a nice little touch of the ordinary, both in the sense of it being a nursery rhyme and it being so very far from Aylili's (new) world. It's a gorgeous opening, me dear.

But that was in another time; in someone else’s life, and she would not think on it <- very sad events there, but the descriptions are utterly gorgeous. Again, so easy to picture and vivid, despite not focusing on every detail. The shadows of gulls' wings is a wonderful touch and the insert of taste is beautifully done.

She was on the western edge of her territory now with the broken towers of <- Might want to consider rearranging the sentence order to avoid the ambiguity of 'now'. Currently to can go with both where Aylili is as with how the area looks. I'm leaning strongly towards the first option, but the second is a syntactic possibility at least. *burble*

A full grown adult would never fit there, but Aylili was fourteen and half-starved and it suited her perfectly. <- Don't ask me why, but I think that turn of phrase is utterly gorgeous. I love the whole paragraph, but that sentence especially.

Aylili ran. <- Scary, scary Nimbus. I do not at all blame her for running. I love how raw the description of his counter is and how it's just streaks of black and touch of feather. Very powerful bit that.

If they could catch her they would put her with those puling, groundbound brats, but she was Aylili, too swift for them, too clever. <- I think it's the youthful arrogant that comes from the 'but' clauses. I'm not 100% sure what causes it – maybe just the use of 'but', maybe reader perception – but there you go. It's a great touch.

It was a mere[,] crude wooden <- otherwise you leave it open to the misinterpretation that it should be 'merely crude' which makes no sense except syntactically. The description of the flute sound is gorgeous, me dear. But then your phrasing in this in general is gorgeous, so I'm not too surprised. ^-~ Very, very wonderfully done here.

Now she could hear his words and she leant forward to listen, telling herself she sought clues to his identity; that it was not the sight of wings that fascinated her. <- I love how you've put this behind the description of Nimbus. That's a beautiful touch, especially since it punctuates the phrasing as indication that Aylili is just denying the truth to herself.

“You came back.” <- *cackles and snugs Nimbus* I love the brevity of that and the sense of it.

He might not be of the Dark[,] but he was

(And... You get a multiparter. ^-^)
Mar. 8th, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)

The man immediately knelt beside her. <- did he move? He was crouching a moment ago. This is likely just an issue with my understanding of movements, mind.

“Clear and beauteous, the tears of the rain to cleanse a wound. Or if we cannot find fresh water we will use vinegar, though it will sting, perchance.” <- *loves Nimbus, loves Aylili's reaction to getting her scratch cleaned up* It's such a wonderful and lively scene, this.

The name meant nothing to Aylili and it must have shown for he said, indignantly, “It is no matter to joke upon, you tease of a child.” <- Ahhh, and the sheer Nimbosity shows. Wonderful descriptions throughout. Something tells me I'm going to keep saying that if I don't force myself to restrict it to a repetition at the end, though…


She was too sleepy to respond[,] but he kept talking anyway.

And whispering through her memories was <- was or were? Asking because I can see both being grammatically correct depending on how the list following is read, so I'm curious whether it's absolutely intentional or not.

Aylili was not impressed. <- *giggles* One would be hard-pressed to be impressed when those feats are spoken by a drunkard, even if they're true. ^-~ Still, that is a wonderful description of someone utterly drunk and I loved the way you've integrated Nimbus' movements into the speech he's making. ^-^ *remembers this bit more clearly than the opening* Wonderful piece, me dear.

“Can you step backwards?” he asked her, and she realised that he was suddenly, alarmingly, sober. <- Bless, mister Theatrics. I vote we make Theatrics Nimbus' metaphorical middle name. ^-~

She tried to slid[e] her foot backwards and slipped.

Nimbus hugged the chimney closer and said, desolately, “Where’s my drink? I want my drink.” <- Awwww, poor Nimbus. *pats* See what comes of drinking to forget? *offers him some chocolate and something labelled instant-Irish coffee without so much as a drop of alcohol in it and not tasting at all similar to actual Irish coffee*

And hungry. And thirsty. And her bladder hurt. <- love the way you've rendered that and that you've included her bladder in this. Very beautiful. ^-^

She was Aylili, and she could call the birds. What did it matter where she had learnt the skill? <- Love the repetition of Aylili telling herself who she is and how she's trying to keep her memories at bay, poor thing. I do love these two, despite knowing that there is so much sadness lying behind them and in their pasts.

Aylili sucked her burnt fingers and pretended she could not hear him laugh. <- *chuckles* Such a sulky thing. I love how she's not thinking about how hot the fish is going to be and I love the calm ease of Nimbus. These two react to each other so wonderfully and they're so rounded and real as personalities. It's really, really beautiful, me dear. But then you already know I loved this. I know you've said I've already read this, but it deserves to be reread. It also deserves to be published with quality like that. Very, very beautiful, me dear.
Mar. 30th, 2008 08:13 pm (UTC)
I think he went from crouching to kneeling - just rolled forward a bit.

*snugs Nimbus* His ego gets badly bruised in this one. Bless him, he's not even exaggerating that much - it just sounds that way.

I had so much fun writing the washing line scene. It's still one of my favourite scenes ever.

This whole story was about the relationship between the two of them. They bounce off each other in such interesting ways, yet they're good for each other.

Thanks for the super-comment, especially given you've read this before. I'm glad it works the second time round as well.

Mar. 30th, 2008 06:30 pm (UTC)
The lacy voices really got me into the mood of this. I wanted Aylili's life to seem fragile and yet beautiful.

Meh, semi-colons. I hate them and change them when Word tells me too.

Thanks for all the picks.

I wanted Nimbus' first appearance to be startling, bless him.

Aylili is arrogant - for me it's one of the big clues about her background. She may not talk, but her thought patterns are very like Nimbus'.

Sorry to be such a slowpoke getting back to you. You are a marvel *hugs*
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