Greetings to all. Since I have long been delayed in writing anything of considerable length, I have resorted to short stories to keep my writing skills-such as they are-in shape. This particular one takes place in the same world-with the same characters-as "The Color of Moonlight" and the upcoming redo, "Serpents of Fire," as will any additional ones I put here, but they are unconnected as of yet with the plotlines of those stories or with each other. Their purpose is to help me (and you) work out the traditions and customs of my races, namely the seraphim, and to further develop these characters. I hope you enjoy these stories. I promise I'll try to make progress on my longer works soon. (Note: A few minor details have been changed. Thanks to my observant reviewers, especially Greywind Elf.)

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The Winged People

Story One: Nerith

By Lomiel

Lúmë sighed patiently despite the frown of dissatisfaction that flickered across his face. He stood unmoving, hands clasped behind his back, his soft down feathers brushing tantalizingly against his wrists. Lúmë ignored their call to him, but stepped closer to the edge of the doorway. A breeze swirled over him, stroking his deep silver hair playfully. He closed his eyes and bowed his head, half-spreading his smallest pair of wings to allow the wind to massage his feathers. The air pulled at his pinions, whispering, urging him to come away into the skies. A smile flittered across his lips, but he shook his head minutely, his hair sliding weightlessly past his shoulders.
The seraph's eyes opened slowly, troubled in their roiling depths. He stood on the brink of a carefully sculpted ledge at the base of an intricately carved circular doorway. Beyond his feet, the sloping, shining side of the tower slid away until it melded effortlessly with the jagged rock at its base. Deeper than that, the rock faded into shadows that no sunlight would ever reach. The hissing crash of unseen water echoed on the stones of the canyon, carried to his ears by the winds that begged and pulled at his clothes, pleading with him to fall forward into the emptiness of their embrace, to float above that suicidal plunge. Lúmë stared into the Deeps, his mind captured by the unfathomable depths--uncountable wing- lengths in shadow, and hundreds more up the tower's sunlit face to where he stood, fascinated, on the edge of that impossible drop-off. He leaned forward, his will slipping to the beckoning of the wind. His eyes, now blank in thought, whirled an expressionless mist-grey, fading into near- black, then the shade of storm clouds, then pure mercury, absorbing briefly the shimmering spears of silver that radiated from the pupil.
With difficulty, Lúmë dragged his gaze up from the dizzying, alluring plunge before him to the last golden rays of the setting sun. The towers of Esrocíra were aflame with the dying orb's molten blood, golden rays seeping through the graceful pinnacles and drenching the fluttering banners. The sky was arrayed in brilliance to celebrate the sun's passing, the bright colors of pink and orange and yellow fading into deeper and deeper night. Lúmë stood like one entranced, staring into the mountains until nothing remained of the sun but a haze of lighter azure in the darkening sky, consumed in his thoughts.
It had been too many years, now--not countless, not by the lives of the Ëarin, but too many. A fugitive sigh escaped Lúmë's lips, vanishing into air not yet cold enough to betray the telltale steam. He had been alive for so long, had stood here and watched the sun die on the mountains' blades and rise anew in the east so many times. He wanted someone to share this with, a smaller one to teach, to talk to, to befriend, to be family. The ennai came without ceremony, whenever they chose. They chose their nerith, their family, to teach them and guide them until their clumsy wings became graceful and their pale hair began to darken with age.
Never him.
Lúmë was still waiting. Perhaps he would wait forever.
He had thought at first that he would be willing to wait forever, that he didn't want a small one interfering with his life. But things had changed; he had seen the older nereth's face alight with joy at the presence of the younger, had seen the way a solemn and cold seraph became kind and full of laughter when they became a nereth or neren. Lúmë wanted that. He had no nerith, no one to teach the ways of the seraphim to; no one to fly with, no one to tell the stories of the stars to, no one to laugh with. Laughter was often scarce.
Near-silent footsteps behind him interrupted his thoughts. They were soft and erratic, and Lúmë sighed. Another lost young one looking for the way to their home tower. He turned to look for the approaching enna and nearly tripped over the small seraph gazing quietly up at him.
She hardly reached his waist, but her tiny body was slender and graceful. Small tufts of pure white down still clung desperately to her first adult feathers; her littlest wings had yet to grow half the flight feathers. Her long white hair tumbled to her waist, silky and pure and pale as the moon. From behind feathery bangs, two wonder-filled azure eyes stared up at him, the silver streaks glittering as her eyes changed to as many shades of blue as there were in the twilight.
Lúmë stood frozen for a long second. Something was different about her, something he had never before seen in any of the ennai. Something in her. . .was like him.
The child's innocent gaze flitted into a smile, an expression too like his own, and she bowed suddenly, with the jerkily graceful movements of a small bird. Her wings flickered forward in the traditional bow, but her eyes never left his. Lúmë found his wings were quivering and quickly stilled them. He had seen this ceremony before, too many times to count, but it was too much to hope that she was his neren. He bowed anyway, sweeping his wings forward over his shoulders more slowly and blinking deliberately.
The little seraph smiled again and spread her six wings to their full extent, no more than two and a half primaries from wingtip to wingtip. Unconsciously, Lúmë spread his own, bringing them forward until the wingtips touched. Something like a shock slithered up his wings and dove into his heart, and he knew. He knew he would be the first to hear her speak, and that they were family now.
The little girl smiled again. Her voice was soft and gentle but perfectly, wonderfully clear. "Greetings, nereth."
Lúmë smiled back. "And to you, neren."
"What is your name?" she said suddenly, cocking her head to the side and peering at him through her hair.
Lúmë knelt so he could see her face to face. "My name is Lúmë," he said, still hoping he wouldn't suddenly wake up from this dream.
The girl frowned, as if trying to remember something. "My name is. . .is. . ." She trailed off, then looked at him again. "I don't know if I had one. What's my name, nereth?"
Lúmë took a deep breath. "Your name is. . ." He looked away, out across the Deeps to the gathering night. His breath rose in frosty plumes, and the moon was beginning to peek over the horizon. A name. . .a name for a beautiful winged child. He was almost afraid to look back, afraid she would be gone and he would only be talking to the night air. But when he turned, she was still there, her breath forming the same misty tendrils as she stared at him expectantly.
"Your name," Lúmë said, "is Shimoyo."
"Shimoyo," she repeated slowly, and for the first time, Lúmë noted how slow and liquidy her words were. Something in him leaped when he remembered that he was the first person to hear her speak, ever, and that this was the first time she had used her voice. "I like that, Lúmë. Shimo. . ." she started again, but the word dissolved into a yawn. She stretched her small limbs and rubbed her eyes. "Where do we live, nereth? I'm. . .tired."
Lúmë turned to walk back inside toward his rooms. "This way, Shimoyo," he said quietly over his shoulder, but he was stopped by a tug on one wing. He stiffened, but the anger that usually accompanied someone touching his wings didn't come. He turned to his neren, who was yawning again. "Yes?"
Shimoyo didn't respond, but held out her arms to him. Lúmë was momentarily baffled, then he picked her up, amazed at how incredibly light she was. Shimoyo murmured, "Good night, nereth," in his ear before her head dropped onto his shoulder and her breath slowed into sleep.
Lúmë padded through the halls, wondering and amazed, and somehow found his way to his rooms. He laid her gently on his bed and tucked the covers around her, then sat in the window, listening to the whisper of his feathers and watching the moon fly through the sky until the morning came.