The sky mocked her, daring her. Though it knew she would lose. The dare was simple, take to the sky.
Just once would be enough.
Henri craned her neck, trying to follow the path of a bird, envy rolled of her in waves, practically visible to the naked eye.
Then, in a flash, her father sored across the sky, his obsidian wings drew in the light around him, like Apollo with a black sun. How she wished she could join him.
She spread her arms in the imitation of wings and ran, abandoning the basket of linin she’d previously been holding.
Faster and faster, her chest burned, cold air scalded her throat in a desperate attempt to breath. For one glorious moment, she leaped up, and it felt like flying.
But the moment passed and as she stumbled to the ground, she saw her father glide away. She was fast, but not fast enough.
If only she weren’t stuck on the ground. She’d be magnificent instead of a disgrace.
She turned to watch as her father touched down on the ground with grace only belonging to one form the Anglicane race. His wings folded against his back, the sooty feathers blending in with his dark hair.
It was too long. Many times she’d told him to get it cut, but her father seemed adamant to have it remain hanging by his waist. Henri thought that was foolish. For all his wisdom and strength, his vanity would be his downfall.
“Yes?” she replied, her voice monotone with respect.
“Henrietta, you should be inside, it’s not safe.”
She only nodded hands behind her back as she smiled pleasantly. He would never know how her fist curled tight, a sharp finger nail cutting into her palm, almost drawing blood. “I was only bringing the linin out.”
His eyebrows raised, Odeon allowed a smile “And where is the Linin?”
It was then she realised her hands were empty, she flushed. “I was only watching” she cried defensively.
Odeon sighed, for a second the High Commander of the army, to reveal a father worrying for his daughter’s safety. He spread his wings, knowing her well. Almost immediately Henri rushed to touch them, her fingers stroked through the downy feathers vigorously, as if thought her ministrations she could soak in the power to give herself a pair.
Her father was no ordinary Anglicane. Ebony wings singled him out as a man of high status and power. The colour of an Anglicane’s determined their power potential. Brown for Fledglings and civilians, Grey for guardians and white for Celestial Warriors. Her father was one in a century, the only owner of black wings.
Sometimes…all the time, Henri wondered if the true reason her father kept her lacked away all the time was not for her own safely, as he always said, but instead because he was ashamed that the daughter of the Strongest Anglicane to ever live had no wings of her own. Like a petty animal.
Odeon finally took her arm and guided her away from the open plains before the city of lights. Henri hated him treating her as a child, though she was already seven.
He bent down and patted her head, wiping the pout from her face and hoisting her onto his hip.
“Be patient” he said “They will come, in time. Until then, be patient.”
The years passed and Henri reached her Nineteenth year wingless.
Though her father assured her that they would come in time, as always. Henri was sick of waiting and so were the Anglicane council.
They accused her of being a changeling human child in the place of an Anglicane, or a filthy half-breed. Henri was neither, though she’d never met her mother, she knew she’d been a white winged Anglicane. So why did Henri still not have any wings?
In the mirror, she looked repulsive. Her lowly useless body made her sick. Without a thought, she crashed he hand though the glass disgusted at the incomplete reflection. Blood dribbled down her wrist from tiny tears in the skin and pooled at the elbow.
The pain was a nuisance, but the action somewhat calmed her. It was strange that though an act of violence peace could be found.
The sky burst, coloured fire rained down from the heavens in celebration of ten-thousand years of peace. Ten-thousand years of the prophecy being false, the Blood Raven would not rise again.
But Henri was not to be a part of the celebrations. Wingless and useless, she was a bad omen to a happy time.
But one day they’d pay. She’d show them and bring them to their knees in reverence of her glory. Once her wings showed, she’d prove to them all, she was not useless.
From beyond the window, Odeon stood his wings half-cast as he was addressed by the Anglican counsel. He appeared torn and solemn, but determined. Briefly she wondered what it could be.
Henri looked upon him impassively from her place on the balcony. The love and respect she’d once felt for her father had lessened over the years in her jealousy and rage at being hidden. Those feelings built up over the years and now she was teetering on the verge of love and hate, unable to choose a side.
She watched as he took to the sky. He was beautiful. He was everything she’d ever wanted to be.
In the air their eyes met and he glided down, touching down in the balcony. This was strange; he was not supposed to be here now.
“Father?” she questioned.
Odeon watched his daughter, memories clouded over his eyes like rain in a storm. So many memories. This was so hard.
But it must be done. One for many.
“Father?” Henri asked again “Why are you here, is something wrong?”
His eyes glinted with something that didn’t make sense, all the hair at the back of her neck stood up. She took a step back unconsciously.
“Henrietta” he said calmly “Come here!”
She almost obeyed, but her fear kept her rooted to the floor. At her disobedience his eyes grew cold, neutral. Henri didn’t understand. Her father would never usually look at her this way, like a tanner watched a sheep it’s about to slaughter, this was not her father, this was the Army Commander.
“Henrietta Dumone” he said more firmly “Come to me now!”
“I won’t” she cried “Don’t come any closer.” His hand went for something in his cloak. “Father please!”
He stopped and for a moment, fatherly worry crossed his face before melting away impassively. No, she wasn’t having any of that. “Father, don’t do this. Whatever this is. What have I done?”
When he didn’t answer she added “I may be insignificant, but I’m still your daughter. I deserve this more than this silence” her eyes pleading.
Odeon remained silent, and then from his cloak, he pulled out a dagger. Henri’s eyes ghosted over the blade which she was certain, was meant for her.
“So you are here to kill me father?” it was more of a statement than a question.
“Understand this Henrietta” Odeon said “This was not my decision. The council have decreed it, I was chosen to carry out the deed and as the High commander it is my duty to obey orders.”
She laughed bitterly, though nothing about her death was funny. “So orders are more important than me. Why? What have I done? I’ve committed no crime, done no wrong. I’ve abided by every whim and rule of theirs, stayed a prisoner in this house for nineteen years. So why? Or do your Masters forbid you from telling me?”
“Don’t be patronising.”
“Then why!” All the while she spoke, Henri edged backwards to her bedside table, where a knife was hidden safe. She would not die, not even for her beloved father.
“It seems” Odeon spoke “The council have ideas as to why your wings have not yet appeared.”
“And what ridiculous accusation have they invented this time, that I have to die?”
Silence, and then “They believe the reason the Blood Raven has not yet risen and destroyed us, is because she was born as one of us. You.”
Henri froze. “That’s impossible” she screamed “The Blood Raven is a creature drenched in blood, the apocalypse of our entire race. The monster under my bed. How could I be such a beast?”
“Because the potential is still inside you but it has not awakened fully enough to take a physical appearance. You’re still an innocent; you haven’t taken a life yet.”
“And so you kill your own flesh and blood, because of an accusation, that may not even be true. No, it’s a pack of lies. They’re lying to you Father!”
“That’s not the point Henrietta” Odeon looked away “It’s too dangerous to risk it. I can’t put your life above the lives of others.”
She was crying, she couldn’t stop the tears. “You won’t even try to save me. To fight for me?”
“I won’t, I can’t child. You have no wings!” he cried “I’ve tried everything, I cannot think of any explanation.”
Henri recoiled as if she’d been slapped. His betrayal stung. It hurt more than she’d ever thought it would. Because despite knowing oh his shame of her, he was still her father. He was supposed to love her.
“It’s one for many.” He repeated. “I’m sorry my child” and he lunged forward.
Henri dove to the side, knife gripped tightly. She was not quick enough. He caught her, stronger and faster, he fisted her hair and yanked her back. Dagger raised, he plunged.
Odeon stopped, hesitating for one moment.
And in that moment, Henri lunged up and slit his throat. Odeon’s eyes widened, as if he couldn’t believe she actually got him. Then he went limp, blood spurted from the wound, pouring onto her.
The useless fledgling had killed the army commander.
Henri fell to the ground, adrenaline pumped though her veins, her heart was beating so fast. Finally she shoved him away, he rolled uselessly to the side, his ebony wings stained dark red.
She pulled the knife out, his blood warm on her hand and tossed it away abashed.
She’d done it. She’d killed her own father. Because he hesitated, he was dead.
Henri had been wrong, it wasn’t vanity that was his biggest weakness in the end; it was love. His love had killed him.
She wept not knowing the reason why. It wasn’t real, none of it. Even though the knife felt solid in her palm.
And then she began to laugh, because amongst the pain and sorrow was excitement. It was fun to kill. The thrill of the kill was only downplayed by the lack of the hunt.
The beating of her head sounded like ceremonial drums. Then suddenly, pain split across her back from every pore, skin ripped, but she paid it no mind. Her eyes remained fixated in her hands, then on her reflection in the blood as two shapes grew from her back and extended, covered in a bloody mucus. They shook and stood proudly.
Wings. Blood red.
Pain mixed with pleasure, she bounded to the balcony and stretched them out.
Perhaps the council weren’t just superstitious old codgers. They were right.
But now they would have to die, after all, they had sent an assassin for her. Her own father no less. How uninventive. It only seemed proper she return the favour. Henrietta was itching to kill again, to feel the thrill of death at her hands.
The apocalypse of the Anglicans. That actually had a nice ring to it. She always knew she’d one day bring them all to their knees.
Henri extended her wings, red against the black sky. She glanced back at the body of her father and smiled serenely.
No, he wasn’t her father, he was a corpse. No longer beautiful or strong, he was nothing to her now. Let him rot.
The Blood Raven took to the sky.
And it was glorious.
More than running, more than flying, she had vanished and become air. So free, nothing was real.
Not life, not death. Not any of the people below her. She rose above them all, they were insignificant.
The sky that once mocked her now embraced her.
She was home.
Shalom Jacobs is an aspiring Novelist who spends almost all her time reading, writing, drawing, sleeping and working on new stories. She hopes everyone who reads her stories will enjoy them as much as she enjoyed writing them.