Atop Hell's Heights
Note: The basic concept for the first three chapters of this story were given to me a by a friend of mine. I just added the meat to the bare boned skeleton, a very bare one indeed. Also, the original "Half poem" was contributed by a friend If you read, you may as well review... I'm currently completing this story.
Part 1: Separation
Hell's Heights. How poorly it was named. A demon would have loathed residing in such a pleasant place. Perched atop the flat-topped mountain's lofty peak, surrounded by grass, a single apple tree stood. A beacon in a brilliant abyss, the mountaintop glistened in the rising sunlight, as dew moistened the Heights. The skies swirled in pastel colors, congregating together above a crystalline lake.
The Bloody Lake; a fitting name for the moat that circled "Hell's Heights", as both were calm places with terrifying names. And indeed, the Bloody Lake was a moat, for veiled in mist, Hell's Heights gracefully loomed up from the lake's center. According to legend, Hell's Heights had once been a horrid place; once when the demons had warred with the angels, soon after we of the AliClan had come into being. Hell's Heights had burned with hellfire and had served as a different kind of beacon, one for death, hate, and blood. They say that the lake was crimson, filled with the bloody remains of both forces.
But it had been her favorite place, and we always met there, Kiana and I. We had been gathering there since we had just sprouted our wings. That was what separated us "Alis" from the humans; we grew wings and were not afraid to use them. Although we were often excluded, hated and sometimes even tortured by humans, we treasured our wings.
Mine were a light yellowish-brown, like my hair. Other than that, they were average, I guess. I mean, I had two of them. Her wings were a little different, however—special. Unlike most Alis her wings did not match her hair. Instead, they corresponded with her eyes, which were an unusual tone of purple.
Purple; like the apples on the tree in Hell's Heights. Those apples changed everything for both of us. The purple apples, in one word, were delicious. Out of every color fruit present in the glorious tree, they were the crunchiest, ripest, most perfect apples. I'd heard people have flown up to Hell's Heights just to sink their teeth into the apples.
On that day, we were having a conversation about life in general (our parents, our friends, school etc.). "No Kaio," she remarked, "you're wrong. Just because Mrs. Cynthia is a centaur does not mean she is a bad teacher.
"Well then," I asked her, "what is it that makes her so terrible?"
"Oh come on," she said, chewing on a smooth green apple, "she's not that bad."
I snorted. "You're right. Mr. Larry is worse."
After pausing for a second I continued, knowing Kiana would say it if I didn't, "And it isn't because he's human. It's because he's a lousy teacher."
Kiana sighed, shook her head, and looking desiringly at the purple apple attached to the tree, she responded, "We're lucky we can get any human teachers; most won't even associate with us Alis."
Being the gentleman, I fluttered up to the top of the tree and retrieved one purple apple—the last. I merrily continued the dialogue, "That's their problem. Humans aren't really any worse than we are; they just act that way. You must agree of course."
She raised her eyebrows. "I don't even understand why we're friends. After all, we're so different."
"Opposites attract." With those words, our hands slowly and subconsciously slipped towards each other's as we stared down at Bloody Lake. The scent of the delicious apple filled our nostrils as we glanced from each other to the apple and back.
"It was the last one," I assured her. "There'll be more tomorrow." There always were more apples the next day; that was the glory of it. The tree produced fruit at a substantial rate. We gazed into each other's eyes for a while, as if probing for a clue, any sign of what we should do next.
We were very spontaneous that day and without stopping to think we both plunged our teeth into the luscious apple. We tasted, once again, the silky sweet delicacy of the well-known purple apples. The purple apples were also well known for the random effect they bestowed upon those who chose to share a bite. One couple grew five feet taller. Another sprouted hair all over their bodies. A third couple, however, sprouted additional wings (which is why it's rumored that the AliClan first came to be from these apples). The apples were often used in rituals when a person wished to marry someone not approved by their parents. If the magical effect was positive, (and it rarely was) then by law the two biters must be married. If not, however, the parents still chose the spouse.
After biting the apple together, Kiana and I found that we had become very cold. "Oh my," I shivered, snuggling up against her.
"It's certainly cold," she agreed.
I whistled, summoning my pet dragon, Kaia. She was chosen by my parents to be my guardian. As was the custom, my parents had given her a name very similar to mine. Struggling, I summoned up enough energy and waved my hand at Kaia, who started spewing dragonflame.
Kiana was already out cold and Kaia would have to work fast before we both froze. Flame spewed from her mouth and covered the mountaintop. Hell's Heights was aflame once again. I was warming a little, but so far, only my brain could work. All of those stories I'd heard about Hell's Heights had all ended the same way, "And if that dreary top is ever lit again, all life shall suffer."
I hoped it was a rumor and kept thinking. I'd heard of some cure to the purple apple's effects. Some way to render us warm again. I raced through my memories, searching for the stories of this place I knew I'd heard, searching for a remedy.
Now I could move again, slowly. Kiana was still out cold, though. The spell was supposed to deteriorate if we left the presence of the tree. So, all I had to do was get us both out of there.
As the fire spread, the scent of ash inhibited my lungs. I felt my strength return to me, and up I leapt, sweeping both Kiana and Kaia in one giant swoop. Alas, it was too late. Kiana's right wing was alight, blazing against the darkening sky, as day turned to night. I was gliding down to land with both of them and I couldn't risk setting the village on fire.
Getting warmer and stronger as I left the presence of the tree, I dove sharply, skimming Kiana's wing in the water. Well, the fire was put out but the wing looked so charred that I knew it could never be used again.
I flew over to the village and deposited her near the medical hut. I banged on the door and began to run when she stirred. Without opening her eyes, she weakly gasped, "Kaio, Kaio, Kaio, Kaio…" repeatedly. I sprinted away quickly, not waiting for the doctor to come, but I could not resist wiping a conspicuous tear away from my hazel eyes.
I returned miserably to my home that night, shooing away my parents out of habit and brooding on the tragedy. I barely slept the whole night, and the next day I found that morning was not any better. I had to do something. Missing a wing was halfway to being human; Kiana would be treated differently. Not differently like the queen sitting upon her throne beaming as servants pamper her, differently as in the slave whose master whips her. I cannot get over the fact that it is my fault. If I hadn't bit that apple, but…And then I'd summoned Kaia…why? What had Kiana done to deserve such punishment.
I sighed as I walked out through the rickety door of my hut, limping as I had since my childhood injury. There must be some way to undo what I'd done. There must be some magical spell or chant or ritual. A way to regrow the grass, the tree, and the wing, to repair all of the wounds I'd created; that was my quest.
Quest; how clichéd a word, its definition now so vague that walking down the road aimlessly can be a quest. There are, however, three things, by definition, that a quest must have. The first is a damsel (or if you're a feminist, a guy) in distress, requiring some sort of aid. The necessary aid is usually in the form of a mystical item. But really, any sword will do. The second is a magical beast, such as dragons, griffins, hydras, and llamas. However large or small, at least one such creature is necessary. And the final questing element is the tragic hero who, truthfully, should not be able to overcome the obstacles ahead of him (or perhaps her).
I suppose my quest contains each element. The damsel of this tale is Kiana, who is danger because of her damaged wing. Kaia, being a faithful dragon, holds the title of "magical beast." And of course, I am the tragic hero, virtually skill-less for the task ahead of me.
As is intelligent in almost any circumstance, I decided to begin by assessing the situation. I had to go find Kiana and see how badly her wing was damaged. I thought optimistically. Maybe the doctors had given Kiana immediate attention and her wing would heal, maybe. I knew, however, that that outcome was highly improbable.
My visit only confirmed what I'd feared. Out of need, the doctors had amputated her wounded wing. Because of each wings' immense length, any flight is impossible without two wings balancing each other. I knew that if left alone Kiana would be crippled forever, wallowing in her own misery. Kiana was the kind of person I could not just leave alone; I had to help her.
I entered the little hut and was immediately knocked down by a raw medical odor. Kiana had to stay here until she recovered? I couldn't stand being in here for a couple seconds. But I had to see Kiana, so I pushed the scent to the back of my head, where it accumulated in the foggy depths of my brain.
"Kaio," she called out as I approached her bed, "Kaio take me back." She was delirious, tossing and turning in her sleep. "I must return to the Heights, Kaoi."
"She's been like that for a while," a doctor said over my shoulder. "It's not good for her. She needs peaceful sleep. If she continues like that for too long, we may have to put her to sleep. We only have a limited supply of slumber potion, but in cases such as these, it's a step we must take."
"Will she survive?" I asked, shaking inside.
"Survive?" the doctor said downhearted. "Yes. Fly? No. She will never be able to fly again. We were forced to remove her wing."
"I noticed," I grumbled. "Her bed looks so empty without it."
"I'm Doctor Friar," she suddenly stated, grasping my hand gently. "What do you know about this girl?"
"Why do you ask? Hasn't her family stopped by to see her?" I was suspicious of a question like this.
"Well yes," Doctor Friar assured me, "of course how she was injured remains a mystery. Burns such as these would normally be attributed to dragonflame, but the fact that she showed up on our doorstep like that suggests otherwise. If you know anything…"
I gulped. "I don't. She is a friend of mine though. That's why I'm here." I hoped she bought my lies. "I heard that she was here and wished to check up on her."
The nurse started to walk away, then paused and turned. "You wouldn't happen to be Kaio would you?"
"I am Kaio." I couldn't really lie about that. "Why?"
"She hasn't stopped mentioning you since she got here. Are you sure you weren't involved?"
We stood staring at each other in an awkward silence. She was trying, for reasons unknown, to get me to admit I had been there. Whether she wanted to help Kiana or to condemn me, I wasn't sure. All I knew is that I wasn't about to trust the doctor. And so we stood there in that tiny hut for a while, taking in the smell of expired medicine and studying each other's faces.
"Yes," I assured her.
I began to exit the meager establishment when I heard Kiana faintly whisper something. "Hell's Heights," she gasped, barely strong enough to speak. "Take me Kaio, take me back…"
I looked back at Kiana just as the doctor administered the slumber potion. Since Kiana was drifting into a deep sleep, I found no reason to stay. Walking out, her words echoed in my head. "Take me, Kaio. Take me back..."
To Hell's Heights. That was what I had to do. Go back there and clean it up. Hell's Heights could not sink back to its ancient harshness. Just as Kiana must survive, so must Hell's Heights.