“Why are we wasting this much effort on a puny, human girl? I cannot justify dispatching eight of my best guards to go search for something invaluable,” Alcaeus ranted. The older man slammed his fists down onto the marble table between them hard enough to shake the paperweights. The sunlight caught his disheveled salt and pepper buzz cut, his goods look marred by the furious set of his mouth. “Either you are not telling me the whole truth about this child or you have lost some piece of your intellect over her vastly perishable face.”
Leaning across the scrolls in front of him, Cassander ignored the anger simmering off Alcaeus. Instead, he traced the pattern of the girl’s movements in a vague zig-zag line before they disappeared off the canvas between his hands.
“I demand an explanation for this,” Alcaeus shouted, pointing his finger directly to the other man’s chest. “I will not stand by and let you squander away precious resources!”
Slowly, Cassander stood to his full height. The ocean breeze coming in through the open window blew pieces of his dark bangs out of his eyes as he gazed across the table at his commander.
“It is neither your concern why I choose to do the things I do nor your resources to covet, Alcaeus,” Cassander replied, his voice quiet. “Those guards may be under your tutelage but they are my men. You quickly forget your place.”
Alcaeus’s face blossomed red, his heels clicking together slightly as he withdrew from Cassander’s imposing height.
“I did not come in here to blatantly disrespect your orders Cass-”
“Didn’t you?” Cassander asked, cutting him off. “Did you not come in here to question both my motives and my mental well-being?”
Running his hands through his hair, Cassander watched his old friend flinch sharply as if he had slapped him across the face with the rebuke.
“Rest your mind, Alcaeus. My brain is not turning to mush,” Cassander muttered, turning away to face the window. The soft wind carried the smell of salt-water and sand, the hushed tones of people buying and selling at the market beneath them. “To be honest, I would have been suspicious of you if you hadn’t questioned this order.”
Spinning back toward the commander, Cassander gestured for him to sit while he poured two glasses of stout ale. Alcaeus’s posture remained set at a stubborn stiffness even with the casual change in Cassander’s mood. Passing by him, Cassander laid a hand gently on his shoulder, the glass offered as conciliation.
“She is not merely a ‘puny, human girl’ as you referenced,” Cassander sighed. “And no, her beauty does not affect my decision to request a search. What do you know of the Pegasus line, Alcaeus?”
Brows furrowed, Alcaeus accepted the glass, slowly sipping before replying.
“Little. I pay no notice to the creatures – they are easily tempered and proud. Arrogant and withdrawn brutes. I only know of the race we have here. White, winged, supreme size, perfect musculature. I have never been in close contact with one, although it did interest me as a child to do so. What of them, Cassander?”
Cassander took a seat next to Alcaeus, reclining his head on the back of the chair. His cheekbones had darkened with freckles from the summer; hours on horseback and monitoring fields warming his skin to a caramel brown. Alcaeus watched with curiosity all the while noting the exhaustion tightening the lines of his leader’s face. Twenty years of age difference spanned between the two men, Alcaeus the older and longtime friend of Cassander’s deceased father.
“She can communicate with them, ‘Caeus,” Cassander whispered, head still reclined and eyes closed. “Not in words so much but in touch. In need. In direction. And not only the species we have on the island but every species I’ve put her in the vicinity of.”
Raising his head, Cassander monitored Alcaeus’s reaction, hoping he’d understand the gravity of the statement. Drink abandoned, Alcaeus watched Cassander with unveiled eyes. The look of surprise lingered there long enough to be noticeable before it was wiped clean and he asked:
“You think it’s her then? The one your mother spoke of?”
Cass nodded, feeling the weight of his admission cloak them both.
“But…a human? That cannot be possible, Cassander. She is nothing but a mindless, fleeting second in this clock of a world. She barely exists by all rights. It cannot be true,” he mumbled, standing to pace across the warmed terracotta floor. “Possibly she’s just of good nature? The beasts respond to all sorts of gentleness, perhaps hers is just more compelling. Humans do have a beautiful essence about them; breakable but so passionate about their short time here. Maybe the Pegasai respond to that? They surely do not come into contact with many humans. She must just be something different, something new. They will tire of her.”
Sighing, Cassander also stood, returning to his window.
“Alcaeus, I’ve seen it. It’s not just friendly interest on the Pegasus’ part, it is a connection. A bond. The wires of a tangible interaction are there. I could feel them transmitting information, emotions, memories. I am well aware your negative feelings when it comes to humans but I can promise you- she is the one we’ve been looking for,” Cassander stated, his voice filling the room.
Leaning against the window frame, he slowly repeated the recollections of the days he’d spent with her to Alcaeus. How he’d stumbled across her on a chance meeting when he’d been visiting a trading merchant on Earth. The girl was working in a stable not too far from the main town, choosing to live alone above the very stalls she cleaned every day. She lived and breathed horses, her every move mimicking the elegance of a well-practiced dance with them. While staying there, Cassander had come upon her during the night, in a solitary enclosure comforting a tiny, buckskin colt.
Her voice was soothing, much like the movements of her hands across his small back. The colt had been taken down with pneumonia, not given many hours to live. What little of a veil there was between their worlds didn’t stop Cassander from feeling the colt’s pain with every breath, the very sensation of knives in his own lungs.
But at her touch, his pain had eased; the very whisper of the same words she was cooing into the colt’s ear comforting to Cassander’s own heart.
Cassander was of old blood, from a strong line of males who could traverse between the veils and not once had he ever felt anything like her. Watching her with the colt, he slowly stepped inside the stall and had asked her:
“What are you saying to him?”
“Telling him it’s safe to go,” the girl had murmured, not surprised by Cassander’s presence. “He’s worried-” she ended, not finishing her thought.
“Worried about what?” he’d asked her quietly, gently sliding down the wall to sit beside her on the straw covered floor. “Finish.”
“Worried his mother won’t recover,” she confessed, almost embarrassed by her words. “I’m not crazy. I just can feel it, you know? They are not so different from us. They work their lives away for us. I just…appreciate that about them.”
Cassander nodded, stroking the velvet nose lying in the girl’s lap.
“There is no craziness in believing they are more than they appear. They have huge hearts and they are remarkably intelligent creatures. This one is truly quite handsome,” he added, taking note of the already present line of a dark, dorsal stripe. “I’m sorry you’re going to lose him.”
“Me too,” she agreed, a tear escaping off the tip of her nose.
Copyright © 2016 Pearl Bayou