Santulím spent the next passages with Lypsum closer by the Royal camp while the King and his entourage prepared the Eagle Grounds, scouting for the elusive princes of the air.
–This part takes many passages.—said a Court cook to Santulím while he prepared the evening meal.—Those Eaglets sometimes don’t leave their rocknests for many octaves after they are supposed to.—
Santulím grew restless. The Royal campsite, set in a protected rock formation where a stream passed through, proved to be devoid of interesting specimens.
After sharing this frustration, Lypsum responded brightly.—Why don’t we journey further upland? They are not in the Eagle Grounds.
–but they border them, isn’t it?—replied Santulím.—I would not dare risk the wrath of the King.—
Lypsum grew indignant.—Are you so timid? The King has not given you a second thought. And besides, I hear they have been tracking Eaglets far into the Western grounds. They would not catch an eyeful of us at all.—
And so Santulím agreed to the plan. Again before Celem had risen in the air to burn away the mist that forms in the Upper Wilds, they were many measures upland, scrabbling over the rocks and boulders.
–It changes so rapidly—said Santulím, his inner wind escaping him in great heaves.—This terrain is another world away from that of the campsite…–
–refreshing, isn’t it.—replied Lypsum, who laughed and charged ahead into the mist.
–Way now.—Santulím called, worried of losing his companion.
But Lypsum’s response was lost with his person in the mist.
Santulím paused his exertions and peered into the rapidly thinning mist hoping to catch an eyeful of Lypsum. But he saw nothing.
The deep silence of the Upper Wilds filled the air with an oppressive quality. Santulím fought the urge to scream.
He took a drink of water from his Raiceskin and sat down, wondering what to do next.
But the opportunity to choose quickly disappeared, for a rumbling sound heralded the arrival of a rockslide.
Furiously the stones, large and small, crashed down from above. A rounded boulder four or five times his size rushed upon him. Santulím tried to jump out of it path, but slipped. The boulder seemed about to pulverize his frame like a giant pestle. However, its careening path stopped in the last moment. Instead of crushing Santulím, it slammed the flat stone he clung to.
Knocked out of its place, the flat stone began gathering momentum, born downward by smaller rocks acting like wheels on a cart. The stone gathered speed, hurtling down the inclining slope.
The flat rock outlasted its wheels, exchanging them for soft mountain grass. It lost some of its speed and, for a fleeting moment, Santulím thought he might survive.
But then the rock caught the branches of a mountain tree, hurling Santulím further along. Down he rolled, the world becoming a lurid mix of grass and heavens. Hoping not to break his limbs, he tucked them closely to his side.
Battered and bruised, his body launched over a rocky ledge. Santulím flew into the air and landed in a torpid heap upon a shining object, which made a snapping noise. A piercing screech split the air, and a furious ball of feathers whirled in Santulím’s face before disappearing.
–GAAAAAAAH!—the cry of disgust split the thin air.
Dark forms approached as Santulím wretched himself empty and collapsed.
–Who is this invader that dares interrupt the Capturing!—the King’s voice was hoarse with emotion.
–It is the Alchemistic, Your Lordship—an attendant responded carefully.
It was silent as the world spun around Santulím. The King stared, then spoke quietly.
–May Celem see it is so: This one’s presence shall never darken my way again.—
And with that he strode away, growling with disdain when his attendants dared to follow…