Part 1

 

Episodic Stories

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Raphael looked out over the valley from high on the mountainside. Sunbeams lanced down through the clouds and a gentle breeze stirred his long hair. The landscape looked as if it had come straight out of a religious masterpiece. And I fit in perfectly he thought with amusement.

            As much as he was enjoying the atmosphere, it was about time for him to be getting back home. He hefted the bag in which he had stored the wood he had collected earlier in the day. When he had first been old enough to help with fetching chores, his mother had spent some time working out how to make a bag designed for him. It was much like a conventional backpack, except that it hung to the front of his body rather than the back and there was an additional strap that fastened with a buckle around his waist.

            When he had checked the straps on his bag, Raphael took a running jump from a nearby outcropping, flapping his wings a couple of times before he found an updraft to ride. It was only over the last couple of years that his wings had finally developed enough to allow him to venture into the air, and he could still do little more than glide. He was getting stronger everyday, however, and already he relished the feeling of freedom every time he left the ground behind.

            Raphael felt the boundaries between warm and cold air, flexing his wings to keep himself rising on the currents. After a few minutes slowly ascending, his sharp eyes spotted home in the distance. The stone building was nestled at the end of a nook in the valley side, almost impossible to find from the ground if you didn’t already know where it was. When Raphael had first ventured into the air however, he had soon found that the house was much easier to see from above. He twitched his left wing to steer himself out of the updraft, before pulling them in slightly and beginning the long descent home. Once he’d checked that he was heading in the right direction, Raphael closed his eyes and revelled in feeling the air streaming past him as he glided, the sensitive white feathers on his wings registering every flow and eddy.

            It was dusk by the time Raphael finally touched down outside his home. The high cliffs before the house let in even less light, making it almost as dark as full night. Even so, Raphael had been careful to make sure that no one had been around before he landed. He knew that his eyesight was far sharper and better at night than any full-blooded human’s, and it gave him an advantage in ensuring he wasn’t seen. Caution had been drummed into him all his life by both his parents and Father Drake, almost to the point of paranoia. They had always made it clear that he was not to let anyone who didn’t already know about him see his wings.

            Raphael always took his parents’ rules seriously, even when he was unsure of the reasons behind them. He trusted in their wisdom, and whenever he had asked about a seemingly odd edict their explanation had always been perfectly reasonable. He didn’t even bother asking anymore. Besides, this was one particular rule that he could understand all too well. Raphael folded his wings in close to his body and concentrated. There was a moment of uncertainty in the fabric of the world, and he felt his wings go in somewhere. He knew he looked fully human now, with not even the slightest sign on his back to indicate where his wings normally were. He grimaced and rearranged his pack to look more conventional. He had picked up the trick of hiding his wings out of desperation some years ago, and while it was useful and allowed him to go about in public he did not like it at all. He was never comfortable without his wings; they were as much a part of him as his other limbs and he felt worse than naked without them. Now it was possible to avoid the risk of being seen he knew it must be done, however.

            Raphael hurried on, eager to get into the safety of home and spread his wings once more. He still wasn’t quite sure how he could make his wings disappear like that, even though his father had tried to explain it to him once. The specifics still eluded him, but as far as he understood it was due to him being only half human. The celestial part of him stopped him from being entirely subject to the rules of reality, and apparently this was even truer of his wings than the rest of him. Thus, if he concentrated hard enough he could move his wings from the real world to… somewhere else. And then back again, thank goodness. He wasn’t sure what he’d do if he ever lost his wings, and he frankly he didn’t care to find out. This inner reverie had distracted him long enough that he was pleased to find himself at the door. He tapped a complicated rhythm on the metal and waited. Not long later there was a series of decidedly mechanical noises and he stepped back to allow the heavy door to swing ponderously outwards.

            “Come in, son.” His mother stood in the doorway smiling at him. He wasted no time and sped indoors, closing the door behind him. He shrugged his pack off as he walked to the middle of the room, and felt for his wings still connected to him in the other space. They almost exploded from his back in his eagerness to materialise them, and he felt acute embarrassment as he noticed a few loose feathers floating gently to the floor.

            “Er, don’t worry I’ll sweep those up right away.” He said, technically addressing his mother, but looking sheepishly at the floor.

            His mother merely laughed. “Later. We have a surprise for you first…” Raphael looked at her questioningly. She paused for effect, and then “Your father is here.”