The final character to be introduced in WHEN SHADOWS FALL is Thorn. In writing this character, I wanted to go for a more whimsical voice to counter balance the melancholy of N’th Ailyssa Ra and the over-the-top nature of Horace Seaman’s
sections. As a result, Thorn is a character who has spent his life with nothing to worry about and living as though the world was his play place. Unfortunately, he’s turned up in on of my books, so that idyllic lifestyle may end up in jeopardy. I can’t say too much more without giving stuff away so, without further ado, say hello to Thorn.
The branch bounced gently under the stormbird’s weight, but the bird itself sat still as stone. Though it couldn’t see him, Thorn understood the feathered animal sensed his presence; birds knew things, and there was nothing to be done about it.
He shifted his loose grip on the spear. He wouldn’t use the weapon, intended no harm to this bird or any other living thing. The necessary traps were set and the bird would soon be his; he simply liked the feel of the smooth shaft in his hand, it comforted him. He’d never thrown a spear, except in practice, but he preferred having it with him nonetheless.
Thorn took another step, moving from the leafy cover of a merry bush to stand in front of the wide trunk of a cedar. His skin shifted smoothly from green to striated brown, the color flowing across his flesh the way a liquid might flow across a flat surface, the change keeping him invisible in his surroundings. The bird’s head tilted and Thorn held his ground.
The stormbird’s eye fell on him and, though he appeared to the bird as no more than a tree trunk, he tensed, readying to spring if need be. A breeze ruffled the bird’s feathers and touched Thorn’s cheek, wafting the scent of magic along with it. He inhaled quietly, examining this odor in case another of his tribe might be near, but concluded that which he scented to be merely the magic which kept the bird from flying high enough to clear the veil.
With a cluck, the black, red and yellow bird returned to feeding on tender buds, and Thorn took another step. The loam beneath his bare foot sprang up to meet his sole, cushioning it, quieting it. Three lengths of his spear separated him from the stormbird, and he sensed the power contained within its feathers, its beak, its talons. Energy danced through the air.
Two more silent steps and Thorn had himself in position. He crouched, eyes narrowing and a satisfied smile creeping across his lips; the muscles in his slender legs tensed, coiled beneath him in preparation to pounce. The bird hopped forward; Thorn sprang.
“Awawawah!” he yelled, waving his arms and dragging his feet through the creepers and moss, stirring fallen leaves and sticks.
The bird squawked at the noise and flapped its wings, the gust of wind buffeting Thorn’s face as it rose into the air, out of his reach. It looked back, as though to taunt the creature who startled it from its lunch, and then flew into the net.
“Ha!” Thorn exclaimed leaping over the log on which the bird had perched before attempting to flee. “Thorn got you.”
The open end of the trap cinched closed, the stormbird struggling and grousing within, and the gusts of wind stirred by its flapping wings diminished as the net limited its movements. The bird’s gaze flickered across the forest floor, searching out its captor, and Thorn allowed his flesh to fade from the greens and browns of the forest around him to its normal shade of gray.
He reached over his shoulder and stowed the spear in the sling on his back, then leapt for the tree, his fingers and toes grasping the rough bark as he hauled himself up to perch on the first branch. Dangling from the branch above his head, the stormbird writhed inside the net, twisting itself to regard him.
“Thorn didn’t hurt you, did he, my friend?”
“Didn’t think so.”
Thorn jumped up and caught the higher branch, swung himself around to sit on it and peer down at his captive.
“Thorn won’t hurt you, pretty bird. Thorn will free you.”
He grasped the woven vine rope securing the trap to the branch and pulled. The bird weighed more than he guessed it would, so he waved his hand, calling on the fibers to aid him. The net’s weight eased in his grip and he pulled the bird up onto the branch beside him; it swiped at him with a taloned foot, missing his ribs by less than the length of its beak.
“Oh, you are a playful one.” He sprang up to perch on his toes, not a leaf shaking with the movement, and crouched so his eyes found the same level as the bird’s.
“Here’s what’s going to happen,” Thorn said, unwrapping the thin leather strap from around his wrist as he spoke. “Thorn will free you from the binding and in return, you will carry Thorn.”
He leaned close, lowered his voice. “Thorn is going to fly with you.”
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