Catch me when i fall, p.1
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       Catch Me When I Fall, p.1

           R. J. Davnall
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Catch Me When I Fall
Catch Me When I Fall

  Episode 4 of The Rabbit Hole

  A Story of the Second Realm

  By R.J. Davnall

  Copyright 2013 R. J. Davnall

  This ebook may be copied, distributed, reposted, reprinted and shared, provided it appears in its entirety without alteration, and the reader is not charged to access it.

  The Second Realm

  Season 1: The Second Gift

  Season 2: Children of the Wild

  The Rabbit Hole:

  Episode 1: Through the Fire and Flames

  Episode 2: The Sins of the Brother

  Episode 3: Did You Never Dream of Flying?


  Catch Me When I Fall

  About the Author

  The Rabbit Hole

  4. Catch Me When I Fall

  Chag's head swam as he launched himself out into space. Below, the jagged shape of the Court blurred to a vague dark circle. Rushing air clawed at his hair, and his heart seized. Pevan's shout of joy still rang in his ears. His wings felt like twigs hung with paper. He could feel his feathers leaking air.

  He flapped his arms, surprised as ever when they caught the weight of the sky below and pushed him upwards. That took the worst edge off his panic, though his blood was still cold where the wind ran through his plumage. Above, Pevan and the bright golden shape of Atla circled.

  The Guide shone, sun-like. Chag had taken his show of nerves at the ledge for a shared fear of heights, but from the way he beat higher and then dipped again, that seemed unlikely. What had he been so afraid of? Pevan's admiration of his wings had seemed to cure him in an instant.

  Scowling, his eyes stinging from the speed of his flight, Chag looked down again. Better to face the descent than worry about Pevan's feelings right now. At least his discomfort about the altitude couldn't last too long.

  Held straight out like sails, his wings did the necessary work to hold him more or less steady. Already, there was no sign of the promontory from which they'd jumped, just miles of endless sky, roaring in his ears. He missed the insectoid flying technique he'd learned with the Separatists. Bugs flew by forgetting about gravity. Birds seemed to prefer knowing that they were flying.

  But as an insect, it would have taken years to descend from this height. Chag flinched as Pevan dropped past him, what seemed only inches from his wingtip. The twitch that ran through him set him weaving in the air, and he barely missed the flashing shape of Atla as the Guide dived down over his other wing.

  They levelled out maybe twenty feet below Chag, while he was still struggling to recover his stability. Lazily, the pair of them looped round a broad circle. Chag tried to imitate them, but he knew his path would be crooked and ugly. He could feel it in the way his feathers twisted in their sockets.

  Rissad's voice drifted back to him out of time, warning him against thinking too much about the mechanics of a bird's flight. Let instinct do the work. Easy for him to say. He'd been a natural flier, quite apart from having a Gatemaker's gift for getting up very high very quickly.

  Pevan rose on slow, strong wing-beats to level with him, her wingtips almost touching his. He managed not to twitch away, just. She laughed, the sound a spray of jewels that sparkled with caught reflections of Atla's plumage. Then she shook her head, let a ripple of motion pass along her wings. Trailing out behind and above her, her body looked as if it had been made for the air. Her coat and trousers clung to her, outlining the strength and toughness beneath.

  Chag glared down at Atla. Granted, he was Pevan's age and Chag was a few years older, but the boy seemed so young when he stood - or flew - next to Pevan. Young and a bit dim, for all he clearly knew his Gift. And yet Pevan had offered him an easy, generous trust, gently encouraging him along the journey from Vessit and trusting their lives to him at the Gorhilt Sherim. She'd never been so kind to Chag.

  Well, maybe the kid appealed to her maternal instincts, though Chag found it hard to reconcile any idea of motherhood with the fierce, proud woman he'd fallen for. As if to prove the point, she swooped down again, past Atla, close enough to scare him. He peeled away, lost altitude before some quick but undignified flapping stabilised him.

  Pevan and the boy were getting uncomfortably far ahead. A slow descent was nice, but he didn't want to be doing it alone, not with Atla having warned that there were Wildren below. Gritting his teeth and wincing, Chag tipped himself forward into a dive. The air hardened and clawed at him, and his gut squirmed, but he forced himself to hold steady, arms - wings - thrown back to keep him stable.

  From above, the light brought out the shimmering green in Pevan's plumage, rippling back and forth along her wings with every minor shift. Atla glowed, those of his feathers that actually were golden blazing bright enough to be painful to look at. The lad shook himself, and for a moment the highlights off his feathers dazzled Chag.

  By the time he'd finished blinking, he was almost on top of Pevan. He wrenched himself sideways, into an ungainly spiral. Pevan's wild laughter pursued him as he dropped past her, fighting his wings back into something resembling flying order.

  He began to level out, but a black-green streak whirled past, wind from her passage buffeting him, destabilising him. He had to give up, give in to the dive again. Atla, somewhere above, yelped in surprise, but there was nothing Chag could do about whatever troubled him. Below, Pevan showed no sign of slowing.

  Shivers coursing through him, he gave grim chase. There were few advantages to his poor, ratty plumage, but the constant leakage of air through his feathers did give him the edge in speed. Pevan sacrificed some speed, too, throwing herself into a wild roll for, as far as Chag could tell, the sheer hell of it.

  The gap closed while the black hexagon of the Court swelled ahead - easier to think of it as 'ahead' than 'below'. Pevan rolled again, giving Chag a glimpse of her face, wide-eyed and gape-mouthed. By the time she'd straightened out, back into the dive, he was alongside, looking past his shoulder at her, squinting one-eyed against the wind. She grinned at him, one eyebrow quirking in challenge.

  He shook his head, scowling, but she stuck out her tongue and stretched herself out further, beginning to edge ahead again. Chag swore, the sound barely travelling fast enough to outrun them, but the only answer he got from Pevan was a laugh.

  Atla's incandescent frame dropped past, wings folded all the way flat, almost wrapped around his body. The boy caught himself, violently, against the air just below them, and almost as quickly was lifted back out of view. There was another peal of laughter from Pevan - she sounded more like a bird of prey every time she opened her mouth - and she too unfurled her wings. The sky snatched her away like a yo-yo at the end of its string.

  Chag cursed again and opened his wings. Fire burst along the tendons in his shoulders, a hot line of pain along his collarbones that left him gasping. It took long enough to stabilise his flight that his gut began to turn cartwheels. He looked around to find Pevan and Atla looping under and over each other as they dived in the opposite direction. The air, or at least the expectation of it, stung his cheeks.

  Heeling over, he chased them downwards, biting back grumbles. At least they'd levelled out to muck around this time. He could take a shallower dive and still catch them. That freed him of the icy terror of head-first falling.

  He gained easily, nursing the sullen weight of his own scowl, but he couldn't hang onto his displeasure long enough. After all, now that Atla wasn't getting left behind, what was there really to be angry about? It wasn't like he was anxious to get to the Court and its waiting confrontations. Was he just letting Pevan's easy camaraderie with the boy get under his skin? She couldn't really see anything in the green little snip, could s

  As he checked his approach, Pevan beat her wings a few times and rose clear of Atla's gyrations. The lad took a while to notice, while Pevan craned her neck to look back at Chag. Even at thirty feet or more, he could read trouble in her expression. It was her smirk, the one that, over the month since they'd met, had always promised a challenge to his better judgement. His pulse started to race.

  She rolled over in the air, and her wings turned back into arms.

  Chag's reflexes took over, throwing him into a fresh steep dive as Pevan started to drop away. For a moment, as his every sensation was replaced by ice, Chag thought she'd been attacked or lost concentration, but her face was calm. Was she testing him? Below her, the Court was beginning to look like the castle he was familiar with rather than a distant abstract shape.

  The one absolute rule when flying was that you couldn't get your wings back if you lost them mid-air. Inevitable panic at the fall made it impossible to summon the concentration. Pevan had to have assumed he'd catch her, but she was taking a big risk.

  Still, what could he do? He could resent her playing games with him, but it wouldn't change the fact that she was right. That same smirk that anticipated his aid also commanded his obedience. He threw himself forward, wings folded tight, hair snapping and flapping
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