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Subject: {ASSM} Sangrelysia - Chapter 13
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             Defend the Right to Privacy!

             (what ELSE will I need to add
               by the time I finish?)


  To more fully enjoy this story in living, breathing HTML,
  or to catch up on chapters you might have missed,
  please visit our website at:

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                         Sangrelysia - Chapter 13

                          by Vivian Darkbloom

   Once more, we walked through the picturesque archway, though this
   time it was not ivy-wrapped, but of plain rough-hewn stone.
   Together we climbed the mountainside, both short of breath and
   light-headed with the altitude. We were way past the treeline,
   but here and there a scraggly shrub defiantly clung to the rocks
   with claws of obstinate determination against the bitter chill of
   the hissing airstream.

   We followed a spiral pathway up around an enormous pinnacle. In
   my mind I was running over the summoning verse, written in
   ancient Sangrelysian. Did the melody go up or down on that
   syllable? Which case-ending was it, ueia or ua? My concentration
   kept being jostled by the venomous fury poisoning my mind. Why is
   it, the slime always ruins nice things? I suppose that's the
   nature of sleaze, the worthless destroys the valuable. My body
   ached. It's just plain wrong!

   I forced my mind to refocus on the summoning spell, as we
   ascended the spiral pathway.

   "I'm tired," said Sylvia, intentionally stumbling and weaving
   side to side along the path. "Can we rest now?"

   "Soon, babe. We're almost there."

   "That's what you always say."

   "That's 'cause you always ask when we're just about there."

   "I have to go pee."

   "So go pee," I said. I waited for her while she walked around
   behind a boulder.

   She returned, still moping. "How much longer?"

   "We're really almost there," I insisted.

   Right then, we rounded the last curve, revealing the summit, and
   halted before her.

   Yes, there she was, like a giant autumnal peacock, in shades of
   copper and gold. Sheltered in the concavity of the top of the
   pinnacle, crouched as a lioness about to pounce, her long neck
   was curved around to gaze at us, as if she had been expecting us,
   waiting patiently with an expression that crossed between
   sympathy and resigned exasperation that we should find ourselves
   once again in such a predicament as to require her help. Blinking
   twice, she spoke a quiet cooing sound, and preened the feathers
   under her wing.

   I breathed a sigh of relief, because given my present state (or
   absence) of concentration, I could not for the life of me
   remember the last verse of the summoning spell, or much else for
   that matter.

   Unimpressed, Sylvia feigned weary disinterest, though I think she
   was more curious than she let on. Finally, she asked, pointing
   disdainfully: "Is this a Phoenix?"

   "Something like that," I said. "If you want to get technical
   about it, she's in the same phylum, but I forget the exact Latin
   name. I think she does the burning-up-and-rising thing from the
   ashes but it's only every thousand years or so."

   "Whaddya mean, you forget? Don't you know anything?"

   I shrugged. "Go look it up yourself." She can be such a Princess,
   though fortunately I find it endearing.

   Carefully, slowly, quietly, I approached the majestic amber
   featheriness of the giant bird, and gently reached out to stroke
   her giant beak. She regarded me with skepticism, then reluctantly
   acquiesced, and I touched the rough surface of the enormous
   proboscis. She cooed quietly once more, settling into a more
   relaxed pose.

   Sylvia stood at the edge of the scene, arms folded, hair tossed
   whipping about in the wind that came ripping by. Sadness stirred
   profoundly within me, to see the dishevelment of her royal dress,
   the festive purple trimmed in dark red and green.

   From a pocket in my robes, I drew out once more the small crystal
   ball.

   Sylvia made a sound of disgust.

   The refractive globe, now nearly opaque, glittered as the
   mysterious luminescent blood-red umbra of a fully-eclipsed moon.
   It seemed clearer towards the North. I turned to face Northwards.
   As I gazed through the crystal in that direction, it clarified.
   All at once, the darkness was gone, aside from faint cloudy
   traces that lingered like drops of blood, diluted in a clear
   lake.

   "Just as I thought," I said.

   "Why do you trust that thing?" demanded the Princess irritably.
   "Gives me the creeps."

   I pocketed it once more. "There, happy?"

   She rolled her eyes.

   "The North, land of dragons. Beautiful, enigmatic creatures." I
   said. "Very little is known about them. It will be good for you,
   to spend some time in a place where reality is less certain."

   "I guess."

   "Come over here. Caress her beak."

   Sylvia rolled her eyes once more, telegraphing her annoyance with
   body language that the phoenix studied with (if I am not
   mistaken) a degree of amusement, as my Princess reluctantly
   trudged over.

   "I'll tell you a secret," I said quietly to Sylvia.

   "What."

   I bent over and whispered in her ear: "I love you."

   She stomped the rocky ground with one foot, but I could have
   sworn I saw a minuscule teardrop forming before she turned away.

   Standing up close before those amazingly huge glittering golden
   orbs, windows into amber infinity of the unfathomable wisdom of
   ages, I noticed for the first time in her coloration, dark
   crimson eyeliner around the edges, beautiful, ever-so-thin lines
   in velvety fine accents.

   Eventually, the Princess resigned herself to the inevitability of
   the experience, and allowed me to lift her up onto the back of
   the giant golden immortal winged creature. I soon joined her
   sitting in front, and we took off into the air, Sylvia's arms
   wrapped tightly around my waist, her tender softness and warmth
   warding off the feverish toxicity that raged through my
   consciousness and bloodstream.
     ____________________________________________________________

   The exhilarating rush of the icy wind complimented the warmth of
   feathery insulation, as our living chariot carried us upward
   propelled by immense beating wingstrokes, until we soared
   dizzyingly, at a high enough altitude where we could hang
   weightless, on the updrafts and currents.

   Hours passed, as we crossed hundreds of miles in effortless
   stillness, punctuated by the occasional bass drumbeat of wing
   flutter. Below, we could watch the landscape slowly shifting,
   granite rockiness, tumbling mountains and jagged cliffs
   descending into valleys jewel-studded with the occasional
   crystalline turquoise spring-fed lake, until the terrain became
   gradually less rugged, shaded here and there with rough patches
   of trees, which eventually as we flew, merged into dense forest
   that flowed like watercolor brushstrokes over rolling hills.

   Birds that might twitter unreachably in the branches high above,
   were far below us now, swarms of tiny black dots that merged and
   parted.

   Borrowed though it was, the illusory feeling of being above all
   of my problems was comforting somehow.

   We ascended through the grim, grey cloud cover, and briefly found
   ourselves surrounded by featureless lactescence. It quickly
   thinned, until we broke through into a warmer of air, to discover
   that it was just about sunset.

   In awe we watched from high altitude, the cotton-candy-like mists
   that clung to the ground beneath us, the indescribable and unique
   shifting colors from lavender pink to golden bronze carnival hues
   spanning the sky above, as they played like a calliope across the
   winding curls of cumulus that tumbled like a slow-motion ocean
   below, spilling over mountainous cliffs onto plateaus and
   meandering blue rivers, twisting roads, squares of farmland.

   We arrived just after nightfall, with a faint twilight glow
   fading into a glittering blanket of stars. Our mighty bearer set
   down lightly on the ledge before the cavern entrance, and once we
   had dismounted, took off with near silence in feathered
   wingbeats, leaving us on our own once again.


  _______________________________________________________


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