The third moon, Espee, light as an orange mist and hovering as if it had no care perched at the quarter-angle above the lower settlement. It’s crest slowly dropped along the jagged silhouette peaks of the Varn Mountains. The peaks glowed white as the rising sun announced its presence far away before ascending the valley.
Shakja was in no mood to hurry her time, knowing she was already destined to be late. The farms can wait, she thought to herself as the thick callus of her feet trudged forward through her hut. The doorway was open and in the light of the morning, her scales shimmered effervescent colors of blue, yellow and green hues. She was by all classifications stunning. Her body was lanky, yet her muscled neck perched her head tall as if she was beyond her caste. Her deep blue eyes penetrated the surrounding huts—thousands of them—nearly piled one upon the other as the lower caste was seemingly a breeding ground of fertility; always growing.
Despite the nature of her physical looks, no matter how often she stared into the reflective Third Moon Lake, she couldn’t shake the fact that among the Drjeen, beauty was second to caste. Her hut was only big enough for her to walk with care. She could not expand her wings without damaging the walls made from the leaves of Gilli fruit and patched with swamp root. Sometimes she wondered if she would not be more protected from the elements by simply laying outside and allowing the vastness of her wings to cover her like shade. She knew better though, and while she sat low on the Drjeen standard, there were lower; those who actually did use their damaged wings as a home. It was not a place she would choose to be.
Shakja’s hut was only a few leaps from the Third Moon Lake, one of the two largest farm camps within the Eastern Continent. “It is better to be the highest of the low than the lowest of the low,” her friend Salett whispered to Shakja only a few nightly turns ago. “True,” Shakja replied, “But, I would still prefer to be the lowest of the high than the highest of the low.”
Salett smiled, knowing that with either case, wishing was no way of changing what was predestined.
As the moon fell toward the horizon it kicked up the pull of waves sending a fresh and welcome breeze across the broad scales on Shakja’s chest. She stepped fully from her hut and took in the expanse of beauty. The misty reflection of the moon mingled with the morning rise of yellows and oranges. A pink swath of clouds subtly speckled the sky and Shakja couldn’t imagine a place anywhere in the world that was as beautiful. Salett would be arriving at the farm by now and Shakja relented that her tardiness would lend her another task befitting more of the brutish broad-shouldered male than her slender frame. Still, it was worth it.
With a long-drawn sigh, Shakja unfurled her expansive wings and revealing the full lightness of her underbelly which was covered in curved and equally as impressive scales. She bent her head back, allowing her thick protective spine to stretch taut along the skin of her forehead and running sharp and straight along her back and down to the upper third of her muscular tail. As her wings took in the morning light, replenishing her energy she could feel the pumping of blood filling the three primary arteries stretched along the fullness of each wing and coming together at the single clawed-finger where the upper and lower wings met. As her wings were stretched, she allowed her three-fingered taloned-hands to crack at the joints and drop from the underside of her shoulders. She was careful to not allow her sharply-taloned thumbs to scratch or cut through the leathery strength of her wing. She could not turn her mind from the number of Drjeen who injured their own wings during the morning energy-stretch. One would think a Drjeen should be more cautious. In all her forty years Shakja proudly showed her unmarred underwings as a testament to her flawless detail in all endeavors.
Two Drjeen flew a mere fifty lengths from her, both broad and strong. The second looked in Shakja’s direction, dipping low to show his interest. Shakja wondered if she was showing the perfectly tri-angled projection of her head, or if her two horns were radiating the morning light. The frilled webbing of her ears began to shutter as she took in the vibration from the second male. Indeed, she thought, he’s interested. I should remember his vibration for the next morning flight.
Understanding that even she could not dally too long, Shakja lowered herself on her mighty haunches and with a great burst of strength, she pumped her wide and narrow wings engulfing the surrounding air to force her own violent draft which propelled her upward over a hundred lengths. At her pinnacle she allowed her wings to hold the wind and she glided effortlessly downward and swooped into an elegant line of direction toward the farms. Her speed was renowned and within moments she would feel the exciting vibration of the second male one more time as she passed him and dozens more on her way forward and to the base of the Varn Mountains.
The Third Moon was already touching the jagged peaks ahead as Shakja descended a few lengths. She ominously took note of the lush greenery off to her strong-side flank. While beautiful, it also represented a place Shakja had no interest in being banished. She’d heard the stories. The banished lose everything; all possessions and contact with family and friends. While formidable in her own right, a Drjeen without weapons or the strength of comrades was a mere rodent to the heinous creatures lurking amid the forest. Those few who survived banishment would face the strict law of absence where no Drjeen were allowed to acknowledge the banished Drjeen’s existence. They walked as ghosts.
She shook away the deathly vibrations playing on her outer scales as the warmth of the sun began to fuel her strength. Soon, the blur of land below her turned into an expansive growth of green, red and yellow vegetation. Orchards of Gilli trees were off to her weak flank and ahead countless units of the farm. She spotted her foreman, Gradjn, and even from her distance could see he was in a mood. She dropped her elevation to thirty lengths and re-positioned her flight, angling toward the foreman’s hut. The hut sat in the center of the main courtyard. She adjusted her wings to grip the oncoming air allowing her to change from flight to land. Suddenly her wings sprung out flat, grabbing the oncoming winds. Her muscles flexed and head jerked back sharply as she came to a sudden mid-air stop allowing her to land erect on the sandy floor below and within feet of her foreman.
Shakja tried to count the number of times she’d been late, realizing she was still three times short of banishment. She’d never been so close, but she also knew Gradjn, while likely upset, had an affinity for her.
“You’re late!” He barked before he’d fully spun around to face her. “Again…” He shook his broad neck and Shakja could see the full pulsing veins pumping through his closed wings. Not good. She did not forget that banishment could come at any time and whether a favorite or not, her foreman had a job to do and that always came first.
“I’m sorry my master,” she quickly sputtered, dropping her shoulders as if to embrace being struck by the whip at his side.
He looked at her, “Very well. Go clean the Daken pens.”
“Yes, sir,” she nodded, not looking up at him. She quickly scurried off to the Daken pens hoping that she’d curried favor enough to not see him again for the rest of the day. Besides, there were worse places to work than the Daken pens.
Book three of the Blue Star Series is coming in July 2020. If you need a quick refresher you can buy books one and two below.