The Three Feathers - The Magnificent Journey of Joshua Aylong (5 page)

BOOK: The Three Feathers - The Magnificent Journey of Joshua Aylong
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“What do you mean?” Joshua replied.

“We have to swim across to the shore. This is just an island and we can’t stay here for long.”

“We should wait until morning and then swim over,” Krieg replied.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Grey answered. “This island is very low and close to the water. If it starts to rain, it might flood. If the river swells, the current will be even stronger.”

Joshua lifted his head and shook it. “I don’t think I can make it. Can’t we just stay?”

”I can take you on my back. I agree with the wolf. We can’t stay here.”

“There is something else.” The wolf’s gaze went beyond the edge of the water.

“What?” Joshua tried to stand up but sat back down immediately, a wave of dizziness going through him.

“Hollow’s Gate.”

“Hollow’s Gate?” Joshua asked.

“It was called The Big Deep in ancient times,” Krieg answered. “Many wars have been fought over it and because of it. It is said it holds riches that nobody can comprehend. No one ever came back from it except the eagles and only because they were able to use the upward winds to return.”

“What is it?” Joshua asked. He had heard of it from birds and geese that either lived at the farm or had taken rest in one of the small pools of water on their way north. What he had heard were only legends. According to them it was a place clouded in darkness and only creatures who avoided the light lived there. Hollow’s Gate was a gorge, fifty miles in diameter, swallowing everything that came near it, even the air to breathe.

“The walls that surround it,” Grey thought, “are straight. A sheer cliff dropping at least five thousand feet down. There is no path to the bottom that I know of and there certainly is no way back up. We have to bypass it completely if we were to get to Storm Mountain.”

“The current here is very strong,” Joshua thought. He could see the water moving rapidly toward the edge and from there into nothingness.

“If we fall over the edge we will die.” Grey’s matter-of-factness was strangely comforting.

As if on cue, it started to rain. Joshua was tired beyond belief. The cold made him shiver and the thought of having to cross the rushing water was almost paralyzing.

“Let’s do it,” he thought to the others. “Krieg, if I fall off your back, I want you both to try to make it to other side. Do not worry about me.” He tried to sound much stronger than he was and much more forceful. Grey and Krieg just looked at each other as if to say, “Sure, we’ll leave you to go to your certain death while we save ourselves. It is just not going to happen.”

Joshua got up, tried to shake out as much water as he could. His wings felt as if they were dipped in lead. He could barely walk but when the horse went down to his front legs and lay down, he climbed up onto its massive back.

“We will make it,” Krieg thought to him.

“I hope you are right,” Joshua thought back. He wasn’t convinced.

“That you don’t trust your own strength doesn’t mean I don’t have any left. It also doesn’t mean you can’t trust mine,” the horse thought.

“There is no arguing with that,” Josh thought to himself more than to the others.

The horse stood up and walked to the edge of the small island. The wolf stood next to them. It was at least a hundred feet to the other side and there wasn’t much room for error. The thought of death wasn’t even the most disconcerting in Joshua’s mind. What terrified him more than anything was the thought of just disappearing into a fathomless gorge that would swallow them into oblivion.

Before he could dwell any further, Krieg went into the water and was immediately caught by the current. Grey, upstream from them, went in as well. The current was much stronger than they expected.

What followed now was one of the most terrifying ordeals in Joshua’s life. One of the reasons for it was that he had no control at all, not of the current and not of Krieg’s movement through the rushing water. Several times he was submerged and could barely hold on to Krieg’s mane. Too slowly, they made their way across. The edge seemed to come closer much faster than the other side. Grey was pushed against Krieg who was heavier and floated slightly slower than the wolf. At one point Joshua thought that the horse would topple over but he somehow managed to stay upright.

Hot panic suddenly rose inside him when he realized that they wouldn’t make it across in time. There was too much distance left. He had visions of them falling over the edge and disappearing into utter blackness. He also realized that his weight, albeit not that much, caused additional strain to Krieg who was struggling as it was to not be swept away by the strong current.

“I don’t think we’ll make it!” Joshua thought. “I’m going to try to fly over!”

“No!” Krieg’s thoughts left no room for doubt or opposition in Joshua’s mind. “Stay where you are.” As they moved toward the edge, too fast and with utter inevitability, Joshua suddenly found himself back in the coop, huddled up against the other chickens to keep warm, not quite awake but also not completely asleep. There was comfort there and warmth. Part of him wanted to just go back there in his mind and stay there, hold on to it until the fall over the edge would kill him eventually. It wouldn’t be that painful, he thought. Just slip away. Let go of this tortured body and—”

“Joshua!” The wolf stood in his mind, teeth bared. Joshua’s thoughts were pulled back from the edge. He felt the horse’s panic under his talons. He saw Grey fighting for his life. The thought that he could not do anything to help them overwhelmed him and pushed away the fear for his own life.

“No!” He thought. “There must be something I can do.” And with that he jumped up in the air, lifted off the back of the horse and flew toward the other side. He knew he probably wouldn’t make it but he thought that without his weight on Krieg’s back, the horse might have a fighting chance to reach safety. He gained about ten feet of height and for a moment he caught a glimpse over the edge. But there was only blackness. Once he flew up, his strength left him almost immediately and it was as if his tortured muscles just stopped responding to his command to fly. He dropped and hit the water, the current instantly taking him and pushing him toward the edge. Krieg and Grey no longer tried to get to shore but swam toward him. Suddenly, while his body was turned over and over by the current and losing all sense of where he was, he remembered that he saw a small path to the side of the falls as if carved into the stone. Large enough to carry a horse.

“When you go over the edge try to jump to the right. There is a path!” He yelled in his thoughts, not knowing if the others would even hear him. Then he felt sharp rock under his talons and a push from the side. With that, he was catapulted into the night and out of the water. For a moment he thought he fell into nothingness but an instant later he landed on rock, tumbled a few feet and lay still. He drifted in and out of consciousness and went from blackness to blurry images of the wolf and the horse standing over him, cascades of water dripping down from them.

“We are safe,” he heard Grey in his thoughts. And when he heard it he knew it was true and he fell into a deep sleep and he dreamed of a large cave and three feathers on a blackened stone and of three companions and the bond they shared.

* * *

When he awoke the next morning, the sun was high in the sky and Joshua found himself huddled against the wolf’s belly. His whole body hurt when he tried to move his wings. Krieg stood a few feet away trying to find grass on the rocky ground. The whole side of the horse was covered in abrasions.

“Are you hurt?” He asked him.

“I’ll live. Nothing life threatening. I’m glad to have those. Scraping over the stones was what slowed me down enough to make the jump.”

“How did we…? I can’t remember anything.” Joshua’s vision was still blurry as he tried to find his balance on the rocky ground.

“We made it just in time,” Grey thought to both of them. “I’m glad you live. For a while we weren’t sure if you would make it.”

There was no reason to relive something that Joshua couldn’t remember so he didn’t pursue it any further. As he began to walk around the wolf he saw that Grey had blood on his coat as well.

“We’re pretty beat up,” he thought.

The wolf smiled in his thoughts. “That we are.”

“Aren’t you glad you saved me from the fox?” Not waiting for an answer he stepped around and now got a full view of where they were.

To their left the waterfall disappeared into the abyss below. To their right there was a path cut into the stone, into the sheer cliff. The path lead away from the plateau they stood on. How far it went Joshua could not see, but it seemed as if it went slightly downward. This could have been an optical illusion, for the massive wall of rock that disappeared into the fog below, curved in the distance and it looked as if, tens of miles in diameter, the wall of stone made a large circle ending on the other side of the waterfall next to them.

“What now?” Joshua asked. “We can’t go back. We can’t go down there.”

“There is only one way for us to go and it is to follow along the path in front of us.” Grey got up. “There is no path for us to take but this one.”

As it had happened before, Joshua could not escape the logic in the wolf’s thoughts.

“We leave in the morning,” Krieg thought to them. “Find some rest. We might need it.”

The remainder of the day Joshua spent sleeping and once in a while looking for food on the rocky ground. The sound of the waterfall was their constant companion. It was at times calming and at others unsettling. Each time he drifted into sleep he dreamed of falling endlessly until he awoke, shaking from the cold and the terror of it. He asked Krieg twice if they could just go now instead of waiting here. There was no food for the wolf and he was worried that there wouldn’t be any for a while. Joshua could always find something on the ground and Krieg would probably always find grass somewhere but the wolf couldn’t survive without eating for more than a couple of days.

“I will be fine,” Grey answered his thoughts. “Do not be concerned about me.”

As they looked at each other Joshua realized for the first time how completely different they were. They had, under normal circumstances, absolutely nothing in common except perhaps the one thing that one was hunter the other prey. And yet, here they were, at the edge of an abyss with nothing but each other to rely on.

“Why did you help me?” He asked into the silence.

“What do you mean?” Grey answered.

“When I stood before the fox hole, why did you help me?”

For a long while the wolf did not respond. All Joshua saw in his mind were fleeting images of Grey’s companion when both roamed the ice forests together.

“I do not know the answer.” The wolf looked at him. “I just knew I had to. The… longing in you was so strong and powerful I wanted to help you find whatever it was you are looking for. Maybe so I could find whatever it is I’m searching for as well.”

“So far we have been pretty successful, don’t you think?” Joshua wasn’t quite sure if he meant this as a joke.

“It could be worse,” the wolf answered.

They both smiled in their thoughts. And when night came and then dawn and the morning painted the sky in colors of deepest orange, they were ready to continue on their journey.



Joshua sat on Krieg’s back as they made their way along the slightly descending path. The smooth granite-like rock to their right went straight up and the further they went the larger became the distance between them and the top of the cliff. Joshua imagined a large spiral going downward ever deeper into an unknown world that he didn’t really want to enter. What if they would have to keep walking indefinitely? It could take weeks for them to travel the distance circling ever deeper and not knowing what awaited them at the bottom.

The further they went, the more he began to feel Krieg’s restlessness. As if the horse had to actively stop himself from falling into a trot. When Joshua looked back at one point, he saw the waterfall far in the distance at the end of a slightly curving path. All of it still lay in the shadows. The sun was still low on the horizon and it did not yet reach them from the other side of the valley.

As they made their way along the path, Joshua couldn’t help but wonder why he went on this journey to begin with. Doubts rose in his mind—doubts of the justification of all this. Was it all worth it? He began to think that whatever it was that had pushed or pulled him to go and leave his world, his place of belonging, was probably just a dream, no more than the senseless musings of a bored existence. Why in all the world did he have to go and fly out of the pen? Nothing seemed more preposterous at that moment and he felt himself slipping into a deep hopelessness grounded in the utter lack of purpose the journey suddenly seemed to have.

“There is something ahead of us,” Krieg’s thoughts brought him back. At that moment Joshua realized that the thoughts he had, the feelings of hopelessness that had occupied his mind were not solely his. The origin of it however was unclear, clouded in mist and veiled from him. A heart-rending howl escaped the wolf suddenly and Krieg jumped forward and fell into a gallop. Joshua thought he saw something further down the path sticking out of the smooth rock. Looking into the fog far below them and having the sheer cliff going upward to his right, Joshua was afraid that they would inevitably lose their footing and fall down if they were to continue to gallop like this. He forced himself to concentrate on holding on to Krieg’s coat and mane.

“What do you think it is?” He asked, mostly to distract himself from thinking about the sheer drop to his left and the claustrophobic closeness of the rock to his right.

“I don’t know,” Krieg answered.”

“I’m not so sure about this,” the wolf thought from behind them. “We should be careful.”

Suddenly, out of nowhere, a path split off from the one they traveled on and lead upward toward the top of the cliffs in a steep incline. It looked like a small, washed out and dry narrow creek bed. They stopped.

BOOK: The Three Feathers - The Magnificent Journey of Joshua Aylong
5.3Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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