Blinded Angels: Chapter 10: Grey Skies
Blinded Angels: Book 1: The Noble Sacrifice
Showers of light flicked from the wings of the knuckers as they danced through the air around and between Ellis and Grey. The ribbonlike trails of shimmering light wove from their wings. When two ribbons touched, light flared out like a miniaturized firework.
Ellis twirled on the spot like they hadn’t done since they were a child. Dizzy and lightheaded, they fell to the ground, laughing up at the blue sky. For the briefest moment, they could have sworn they saw the moon laughing with them. Not the man in the moon or even a face, but the moon itself laughed.
Grey ran over to Ellis and offered them a hand.
“It can be overwhelming the first time.” Grey said.
Ellis took his hand and pulled themself up to their feet. “They are wonderful. Do they feed off laughter?”
“Knuckers, like all dragons, feed off energy. So in a way, yes.”
“They are dragons?” Ellis eyes opened wide. Dragons existed. They'd heard the word earlier, but somehow it wasn't real. But seeing them with their own eyes they couldn't deny it.
“After a fashion.” Grey made a sort of nervous jig. “If you asked a dragon, they would tell you they were dragon like, but not dragons.”
“How many kinds of dragons are there?”
“Depends on who you ask.”
Ellis bit their lip, inhaled sharply, then asked, “So is that ghost Graycek related to you?”
“He is my great, great, great, uncle... something like that, and don’t let anyone else hear you call him a ghost. Especially not him. A ghost refuses to pass on. He is a Di Inferi, a god of the underworld.” Grey made a frustrated gesture. “He’s not really a god. Oh, how do I explain it? He swore to protect the community from the other side.”
“Like a patron saint?” Ellis asked.
“Something like that. Technically, he is a mane, one of the good dead, even though that is debatable for some.”
“Yeah, he has a weird sense of humor.”
“He does at that.”
"He said he wasn't given a choice about whether or not to come back."
Grey shuffled his feet for a moment. "The community was a lot smaller back then, and so there weren't that many to choose from. Perhaps from his point of view, he didn't."
Something large splashed in the lake.
Two large knuckers the size of horses, but with scales, claws, and dragonfly wings, flew into the air.
What did he mean they didn't have a lot to choose from? Does that mean Graycek had been sacrificed, or did they ask him shortly before he died?
Eventually, the site of the two adult knuckers pushed all the other thoughts out of their head.
“I wondered when their mom and dad would notice they left the nest.” Gray said. “Stand still until I introduce you. If you’re lucky, we might be able to go for a ride.”
Grey raised both his arms over his head and made a clicking sound with his tongue.
The large gold knucker came over first and rubbed his enormous head in Grey’s right hand.
“This is the papa.”
The white knucker followed and did the same with his left.
“And this is the mama. Step closer slowly.” Gray said.
The knuckers made a deep rumbling sound like a cat purr, but it reverberated in Ellis’ chest like a deep bass.
Ellis took a step forward.
The gold knucker jerked his head from Grey’s hand and stared through Ellis.
“Keep coming.” Grey said. “He can feel your fear. So long as you don’t wish him harm, you’ll be fine.”
“I think I can manage that.” Ellis focused their mind on happy thoughts.
With every step, their heart fluttered. They reached up and stroked the knucker’s scaly cheek, smoother than silk and softer than plush.
The gold knucker nestled his face into Ellis’ palm, closed his eyes, and purred even harder.
Ellis’ whole body came alive with the sounds.
“Would you like to ride him?” Grey asked.
Ellis struggled not to fall over. “Could I?”
“Just ask, if it is all right, they will bend down for your to climb on. Just hold on tight if he agrees.”
Suppressing a squeal of excitement, Ellis took a deep, calming breath. “May I go for a ride?” Their voice cracked in the middle.
The gold knucker lowered itself.
Ellis swung on his back as if it were the most natural thing, like they had done it all their life. They wrapped their arms around his neck, and the knucker galloped forward before leaping up into the sky.
Nothing in their life could have prepared them for this moment. Like something from one of their childhood dreams, they rode on dragon back through the sky. The wind blowing around their face and through their hair, but they felt cradled and safe.
Maybe it was some unseen magic, but they sensed a cloud of pure joy around them, holding them firmly on the knucker’s back. They doubted they could fall off even if they tried, but they weren't about to test that theory. They knew their luck and didn't want to fall to their death in the middle of such a magical moment.
Their imagination had failed them. All the times they watched She-Ra and imagined what it would be like to fly on the back of a winged unicorn, they never dreamed it would feel like this.
Ellis discarded all their notions of time. Ever since they arrived at those statues, they completely lost their ability to tell one moment from an hour or vice versa. If it weren’t for the fact they would have noticed the setting and rising of the sun, they would have sworn they flew around for days before the knucker returned them to the shore of the river.
Grey landed next to them and dismounted from the white knucker. He hurried over to help Ellis off theirs.
“I hope that wasn’t too much for your first time out.” Grey said with a roguish grin.
“It was perfect.”
Their eyes met. Ellis blushed and looked away quickly.
After what felt like an eternal silence, Grey asked, “Are you ready to go back to the sisters?”
Ellis wanted to say, “If we have to.” But said, “I should see how my friends are doing.”
Risking a glance at Grey’s chiseled face, Ellis smiled.
“If you like, we can come back tomorrow, or I can show you something else.”
So many thoughts rushed through Ellis’ mind. Their cheeks glow hot, ruby red. “I would love... like that.”
Why did they say love? Hopefully, they didn't draw too much attention to it.
Grey led them back up to the convent, which, under the bright light of day, resembled a medieval citadel from a movie.
On the way back, Grey told him how he found the first knucker nest when he was a boy, and how he encouraged them and helped them flourish.
His enthusiasm was contagious. Not that Ellis needed any help to get excited about dragons.
They grew up drawing them. Every time one appeared on He-man and the Masters of the Universe or any other show they watched, the rest of the world vanished and they took in every detail. Their parents encouraged it. They loved dragons and unicorns, and dragons were considered the more manly of the two, so they hoped it would lead them to more manly interests. It didn’t.
Luminous streamers flowed light rainbow rivers of light over the courtyard. They set tables and chairs up in front of a bandstand and a dance floor.
The sisters weren’t the only ones fluttering around, setting things up. More locals had come up to join in what the banner called a homecoming.
Tables filled with beautiful, red and white knotwork breads, and numerous dipping sauces lined one side of the courtyard. The other side had punch bowls, bottles, and kegs of every description set up with what resembled amethyst glasses to drink from.
Moriah ran up to Ellis and grabbed both their hands. “I got to see a real grimoire today and learned the proper names of dozens of kinds of magic.” She squeezed their hands and squeaked with excitement.
“I rode a dragon.” Ellis said as casually as they could manage.
Moriah’s eyes widened, then grinned at Ellis in a knowing way. “Aren’t you going to introduce me to your new friend?”
Ellis’ cheeks burned again, and they introduced Moriah to Grey without looking at him.
They exchanged pleasantries.
“Are you staying for the festivities?” Moriah asked Grey keeping an eye on Ellis.
“Of course.” Grey sounding surprised by the question. “The sisters through the best fetes. I’ve never missed one unless I was sick or out of town.”
The idea of nuns throwing a party made little sense to Ellis, and they hoped it didn’t show. More than any other time in their life, they wanted not just to fit in here, but to be one of them, to have the natural ease they all had in life. What would such a carefree life be like? They worried they would soon wake up and discover this was all a dream.
As the sunset, it dawned on Ellis how long they’d ridden the knuckers. Their stomach growled, and grew only more insistent they eat as the sister grilled various spiced meats and vegetables for the, what did Grey call it, fete.
Grey took them over to a table and ladled something he called an autumn wassail into their cups.
Besides the apple and the cinnamon, Ellis didn’t know how to describe the taste other than to say happiness. It was like drinking the sensation of opening a surprise present and seeing something you always wanted under the paper and realizing how much the giver cared for you.
Peter joined them at the table. “Did you know they have unicorns?” He said, accepting a cup of wassail from Grey.
“American Unicorns, they are native to these lands, and not the smaller ones from Europe.” Grey said.
“There is more than one kind of unicorn?” Peter said, like a child seeing a toy store for the first time.
Grey nodded. “Remind me to take you to the stables sometime. I think you'll really enjoy seeing the menagerie that we have gathered together.”
Ellis smiled because they believed it was the right thing to do. They had never been to a party in their honor attended by so many people before, and they were afraid they would do the wrong thing.