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Air Song (part of the Song World sequence)

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Air Song (part of the Song World sequence)

Postby Tony » Sun Jul 08, 2012 11:08 am

This is from book 2 of what is currently called Song World. I am writing it at the same time as Song World - Earth (this is called "Earth Song" now and is going to be book 1.) Who knows how it is going to go? I certainly don't. I'm just writing it. (I managed to get some sort of plan together during 36 hours of solid rain.)


Air Song


Scene 1: Planet Forest
– tales collected by Shanlee of the Avian Story Tellers

The forest world of Forest is a world covered in forest, mountains, rivers and lakes. It is a world of giant trees, vines, flowers and fruit together with tumbling waterfalls and cascades. I have been here for two cycles now and it is beginning to feel like home to me. My people are of avian origins like the people of Tree. It is why I was chosen for this posting. How I wish that I could sing as well as the people of the clans. I am taking lessons with the children which would be embarrassing were it not for the openness of all those I meet. They call me Lone Crane due to my height. I pay my way by telling the children stories from my own people and stories of the dragon fairies or the spirits as they are known here.

The main inhabitants fit the bird template and live in clans in the trees on the many lake islands that occur. The world is very wild outside of the islands but communication lines are good between the islands of the lakes. With them live communities of what the clans call nectar flies. It is the nectar flies that seem to meet the criteria of the great search for intelligence. This is quite a recent union, about a hundred cycles only, five or so of their generations. As a storyteller it is the interaction of the two communities and their shared history that interests me.

I have collected a number of histories and stories about their way of life and their cycles of song festivals particularly those that show that the influence of the fairies is still part of their lives. I have included those that relate to one such cycle here.


Scene 2 - The Passing of the Song – Briar's tale

The following family history is as told me by the bird child Briar. Briar is about eight cycles and is one of the Red Finch Clan. His story is a lovely take on the tales surrounding Tiku's lament. I have made recordings of the song a number of times now from the different island clans on the lakes surrounding the dragon castle ruins. It reminds me of my childhood so far back in time, space and universe.


As we rested by the fire my father turned to my grandmother and asked “Mother, we have eaten so well and the night is so fine, will you tell us a tale or sing a song from when you were young?”

She looked into the fire and thought long. My sisters and brothers and I were eager for a story but, impatient as only the young can be, could not sit for long. In the clearing beyond our fire, the fireflies were starting their evening dance and we joined them, laughing and singing and calling them spirits.

“Look father, look mother, look grandmother! The spirits have returned and we are dancing to their song,” we sang.

Our mother called us back and bade us be quiet as our grandmother started to sing quietly.

“They have gone back to their home out in the stars
And left us to grow and blow in the breeze.
Who will tend us and ward off the cold that will come?
Who will teach us our lessons so we should never forget?
Who will keep us from hunger and keep us from thirst?

The brambles grow strong and sway in the wind.
They flower and fruit and gives us our bread and our wine.
They are the gift of the spirits and keep us safe in the wild night.
The bramble is their promise that we will not be forgotten
And are loved and cherished still on their home in the stars.

They have gone with their song back to their home in the stars.
Here we must stay and honour their belief in our own song
We shall tend our song so that it grows and so that it warms us.
We will share it and sing it with all the peoples of our world
and one day it will shows us the way to their home far out in the stars.”

When she had finished we children all sat talking in hushed voices. We wanted to know the name of the song and mother, sitting nearby, whispered that it was Tiku's song, his lament for the spirits. We all knew Tiku's story, how had he won the ten year song cycle contest but we had not heard his song before. Mother said, “It is a sad, sad song that haunted Tiku and, many say, led to his quest and his loss. His clan still mourns his passing and it has not been sung in public for many years.”

“It would be a great shame to lose his song” said grandmother, defiantly.

“Yes, it would” said father, “but, out of respect, we should only sing his lament when the telling season is here, the night is clear and the fireflies dance, as now.”

“What was his quest, mother?” asked my elder sister.

“He went to find the temple of the Great Egg to sing his winning song to the Keeper and to ask for a blessing for his clan, as was his right.”

“But isn't the temple lost and the keeper gone?”

“That is what we believe. Back in Tiku's time, the old ones could still remember meetings with the keeper and his spirits even though they had long been silent. Tiku wanted to know why and he was determined to ask his burning question. When all slept following the celebration he set out to find the Keeper and ask him why the spirits' song was no longer heard.”

We all huddled together and whispered, daring each other to ask the next question, daring because the night was right and the telling season was now.

Then I spoke up, “Grandmother when did the spirits go?”

“Long ago,” she replied, “before I was an egg.”

We all giggled at this and asked more questions. “But when?”

“Finally? Around Tiku's time we think.” She continued, changing the subject. “My own grandmother remembered hearing Tiku sing in the great contest the year he won. She was a babe in arms at the time but she never forgot. It was so sad and beautiful. She would sing it at family gatherings as I have, now, sang it to you.”

We all asked, “Will you teach it to us?”

“I will, but remember only sing it when joy is abroad. It is not a song to be sung alone”

And so we all learnt Tiku's lament that night and we now sing it. Sing it every telling season when the night is clear and the fireflies dance for us.


Act 1 - Bramblehome – May's tale

This is the story from another such clan, as it happens, the Grey Dove Clan. They live on one of the many islands in a vast lake to the east of the dragon temple ruins. Their island is called Bramblehome and on it grows a giant thorned creeper, scrambling up the forest giants. May was a young woman when I first met her. The tale is a record of events from when she was a small girl of about nine cycles.

Scene 1: Nectar

From here, high up amongst the bramble flowers and newly developing fruit, the whole of Bramblehome spread out before them, showing the village hall with its playing fields and the homes carved out into the oldest trunks. The children, mere dots, could be seen gliding from branch to branch in a game of tag or in the fields far below, throwing balls to each other.

“May, keep up. Use the thermal to your left, where Crystan is hovering.”

“Mother, how much longer?” asked her daughter.

“Soon, the nectar bins are almost full.”

May pulled on the gossamer straps, spread her glider wings and stepped off the leaf into the sunlight. Within seconds, she was spiralling up with the emerald fly, chattering and shrieking with joy.

“You’ll soon be a fly like me,” joked Crystan.

“I'll need more wings first.”

“I won’t be moulting for awhile yet,” he replied sadly.

“I must find a new fly friend then.”

“No, don’t do that . I will find you some wings. Say you won’t do it!”

“It’s a joke! I would never do it.”

“You’re mean," Crystan buzzed and blew a raspberry, which made May giggle.

Just then Crysal dropped down in front of them. “Too much talk and too little flying. Keep up with us,” she droned, before zipping back to the retreating shape above.

“Now we’re both in trouble. No more talk. We must get on with it.”

“It will be OK,” May shouted. “Look, new flowers. Tow me, Crystan.” She threw a cord to Crystan who grabbed it and flew off in the direction pointed.

“Nice new nectar flowers. Juicy,” observed the fly

They set about harvesting the nectar and filling the lidded cups that May had strung to her belt . As they worked, they strayed out of sight of their mothers, singing and giggling as they went.

“Crystan, take the cups to mother,” shouted May.

“Come with me.”

“No, you go. You’ll be quiker on your own. I am going to sit here and rest.”


“Yes, sure.”

Crystan, taking the belt, hovered for a second and buzzed back, “Turkey bug. You are as lazy as a turkey bug lazy.”

“I'm not lazy. Just tired!”

“La la la fat bug.”

“No, you're fat as a spider mate!”

With a waggle of his abdomen, Crystan disappeared from view.

Scene 2: Mice

May lay back on the leaf and started to hum, to herself, a song she had learnt in class for the coming song festival. Bore with that, she sang a few lines from a song she had overheard only yesterday. She closed her eyes and started to doze.

A swish of air and a movement of the branch woke her from her reverie.

“Careful Crystan. You will knock me off.” Opening her eyes, she found herself looking into the eye of a large black bird that was perched above her. She shrieked and grabbed the edge of the leaf to steady herself.

The bird pulled back its head and squawked “Wh!” It stopped and tried again “Wha ... what!”

May crouched on the edge of the leaf and looked for an escape route.

“What? What?” it asked more quietly.

“Go away!” May cried as she swung off the leaf and dropped to tree branch below.

“Singing? What were you singing? Please?” The bird leaned down from its perch above.

May scrambled back along the branch and onto the trunk. Then down, clinging onto the fissured bark, with her fingernails and her clawed toes. The bird followed, hopping down from branch to branch. “Wait … ... wait,” it called.

As she lowered her left foot, looking for purchase on the bark, she felt nothing, space. She pulled her foot back and she sidled, carefully, to the right and then tried again. She felt the rough surface with her toes, dug in her claws and lowered herself. To her left was an opening, a hole in the trunk. It was just large enough. She swung over to it and pulled herself head first into it.

She looked around the hollow. A nest! Cowering at the back were three flying micelets, almost weaned. A fluttering outside the hole brought her attention back to her plight. The bird hung by its feet at the entrance, it being much too small for it, and it cried, “Tell me. What did you sing?”

May dived at the mice and grabbed one. She thrust it out of the entrance at the bird.

“Take it. Take it,” she cried.

The bird looked at the mouse as it hung from her hand, its eyes tightly closed and its body drawn in to make it as small as it could. The bird made no move towards the young mouse.

“Eat it. Not me,” May pleaded.

“I do not want to eat you, just talk” the bird said. “I will not hurt you. Just talk. Please.”

May paused before she pulled the mouse back into the nest and dumped onto the floor. It sat for a moment and then leapt back to join its siblings. She stared at the bird, ready to scramble up into the dark of the decayed trunk. She was still shaking with fear and she could not think straight. “Look at it. What does it want?” She struggled to think. “It can talk! It ... can … talk.” She tried to slow down her breathing. Slowly she became calmer. “What else? What is it?” It was not like anything she had been warned about. To run and hide from. It was larger than she. Larger than her father. It had black glistening plumage that seemed to shimmer and shift in the light. “You're not going to hurt me?” she asked, from within her bolt hole.

“I will not hurt you. I just have questions.” The bird watched patiently as it clung at the entrance.

“What do you want to know?”

The bird took its time to reply. It blinked twice as if considering what to say. Choosing its words with care, it said, “Tell me what you were singing? Yes … singing. What were you singing before … … I frightened you?”

May thought for a moment. “I cannot think, you scared me. How did it sound?”

The bird trilled a short tune. May hummed it back, wrinkling her brow, “OK, yes.” She started to sing quietly to herself and, then again, more loudly, so that the bird could hear it.

“The brambles grow strong and sway in the wind.
They flower and fruit and gives us our food and our drink.
They are the gift of the spirits and keep us safe at night.”

“Yes. Yes! That one. What song is it?”

“They called it 'The Spirits’ Lament' I think. There is more to it but I do not know it all.”

“Yes. Whose song is it? Who made it?”

“Someone from olden times. From a spirit story. Umm … Kikko … no. I cannot remember.”

“No. Not Kikko. Tikko … no. Tiku! Tiku?”

“Tiku. Yes it was Tiku. The song is Tiku's lament to the spirits. I remember.”

“Tiku's lament. Tiku's sadness,” the bird said. “More. I want more of song please.”

“I only know that little bit. I've not learned it yet.”

“Learn it? Sing if for me?”


“I would be happy if you did.”

“What will you do if I do this for you?”

“Be friend, let you be. Sing you a new song.”

“A new song. I will try. Where will you be?”

“Where I heard you sing, back up there … two days from now.”


“Good. I will go now,” the bird said as it let go of the tree and made to fly off.

“May, I'm called May,” shouted May, “what's your name?”

The bird paused, then wings spread, dropped from the branch, and May thought she heard the word “Tiku” before it caught the thermal and was gone.

She sat back on her heels. “Tiku,” she repeated.


“May! May! Where are you?”

Crystan's calls reached her ears and reminded her of where she was. She clambered out of the nest. As she left she turned back and said “Sorry mice,” before she started to climb back up the tree. “Here Crystan! Here.”

He swooped down. “What happened to you. Did you fall off the leaf? Sleepy head. Pooh, you smell. You smell like a mouse.”

“It's your fault. You were gone too long. Did you stop to have tea with some old ladies?”

“You rolled in mouse droppings!”

“Old lady.”

“I thought I had lost you. You scared me.”

“I missed you too. Friend.”



Scene 3: Song Lesson

“Mother, can you teach me a song?” asked May as her mother rocked in her chair with May on her lap, humming a lullaby. “It's an old one.”

“What song, my love?”

“Tiku's song about the spirits.”

“The lament? It’s a bit sad. Are you sure?”

“Yes. I know a bit. If I could sing it in class I would get a star.”

“Who taught you it?”

“No one, I overheard it when I was playing out with Crystan and Petal and Vylet. We were hiding in the leaves and listening to their grandmothers, until they spied us and chased us off.”

“Okay. Sing me the bit you know and I will see what I have to teach you.”

May got down off her mother’s lap and stood in front of her mother with her hands clasped behind her back. She hummed the starting bars and sang her three lines.

Her mother smiled and wiped a tear from her eye. “That was beautiful, May, but it was not quite right.”


“You just sang part of the second verse. Let's start from the beginning. I will sing the first verse, then we can sing it together, a line at a time. OK?”


“ It is lovely on its own but, when we've have got it down, we will get daddy to play his pipes along with us.”

“OK. We can do it for Crystan and Crysal?”

“Yes, at the Nectar Festival. Would you like that?”


“Where are you going? Why can’t I come with you?”

“Can't. You must run the errand on your own, please.”

“Is it secret? You’re going to kiss a boy! I can keep watch for you. You can do the same for me!”

“Kiss you? I've kissed you many times!”

“Not a friend kiss! A slurpy kiss.”


“No. Not you. You know …” buzzed Crystan.

“Oh? Oh! Vylet. You want to kiss Vylet?”

“I don’t want to. She wants to. I want to try it. See what it’s like.”

“You are a bad fly, you know that.”

“Me! Bad? Yes, I’m bad. You going to be bad?”

“No. I am going to see someone old and give them a song.”

“Why can’t I come?”

“They're old. I think they might still eat flies.”

“Gross. I’d bite them first.”

“No. I will not be gone long. Tell no one.”

“Big secret. Trust!”

“I owe you.”

“Owe me, yes. You can help me get Vylet alone for a slurpy kiss.”

“Who's gross now.”

Scene 4: Bird Flight

May tried to remember where it was that she met the bird Tiku. All she could remember was that she was tired and then that she was really scared. The mice nest. She could find that. Look for leaf damage. Sniff out the latrine … oh nasty!

Before long she had traced her way back to the nest. She peered inside. Gone. The micelets had fledged or moved home. She did not blame them. Why was she here? Just because the bird wanted her to sing to it and would give her a new song. Mad! No, that wasn't it. Tiku. How could it be true. Tiku was a Grey Dove like her. How could that black … what was it … crow … no it was not a crow … owl? Maybe. Dangerous? Strange? Yes, very strange. So sad. Lonely. So old. Why old? Tiku was dead wasn't he. Long dead, surely. Grandmothers sang his song. Mad. Mad. Mad.

She started to climb back up the trunk following the scratches in the bark she had left. Up until she came to the bramble stem. There was the leaf, shaded and comfortable looking. She made as if to climb onto it and then stopped. She looked around and saw a shield fern clasping the trunk just ahead. She went to it and, peeling back the clasper frond carefully, slipped behind it and made herself as comfortable as she could. She would wait and watch.

She must have dozed off, she thought as she woke with a start. This growing-up was getting her down. Mother said she was tired when she was her age. She would grow out of it. Horrible. Why couldn't she stay the same. A bleat from outside brought her mind back. She peered from behind the frond.

The bird was there perched by the bramble leaf. Its head was hung down, its plumage dull. It looked so miserable, just like she must look when she had to stay inside when the rains came. She slipped quietly from behind the frond and called out the name. “Tiku. It's May. I've come!”

The bird turned towards her and seemed to glow, brighter. “May! Late. I was late. I thought you gone.”

“I have learnt your song.”

“My song?”

“Yes, Tiku's song.”

“I am Tiku?”

“Yes, you said. Last time.”

“Tiku? No, Owl! I am Owl. Tiku? I must think. Not here.”

“What about the song?”

“Here’s not safe for me. I might be seen. I must go.”

“Shall I come with you?” said May, regretting it immediately.

“You would come? It is far. Fly with me?”

“I cannot fly.”

“You have wings. I can see.”

“No no. These are just old fly wings, from my friend, Crystan. I can glide.”

The bird cocked its head to one side, looking closely, at the delicate wings, “Too short! It’s too far, too high, too cold to glide. You can hold onto my back. I will take you.”

“And bring me back?”

“And bring you back.”

May came closer and, as the bird hunkered down, climbed onto its back. The bird told her to hold tight and then it took off.

From behind the tree trunk, Crystan cried out “No!” and leapt to follow them. Try as he might he could not get near them nor make them hear him. He dropped back, shocked and fearful.


“Mother! Mother!”

“Crystan. I’m here.” Crysal called from the nursery.

“A big bird came!”

“Slow. Be slow. A bird?”

“Big owl, black as a crow. May’s gone.”

“The bird took May?”

“Not take. May's gone!”

“May followed it?”

“Follow. Yes. No. She climbed on its back.”

“Show me,” shouted Crysal, “Now, show me!”


The black bird, with May gripping its neck, had reached the top of the forest canopy and now headed out over the lakes, heading West. The bird swooped in ever wider circles as it searched for a stronger upward draft. Finally it felt its feathers straining from a powerful thermal and, fanning out all its flight feathers, started to rise rapidly into the sky.

“Snuggle down and hold tight,” the bird, Owl or Tiku, said, “it gets cold up here.”

May did as she was told and felt the warmth radiating into her. She could feel the bird’s flight muscles tensing and adjusting to every nuance of the currents. She managed to peak over its shoulder and saw the forest and the lakes slipping away to the east. She had never been far from her lake, not even visited any of the other lakes. Wait ‘til she told Crystan and her school friends.

The bird banked and started to descend, spiralling as it did. May started to shout with joy and the bird, responding, broke out of the spiral, folded its wings and flew down like an arrow, focused on some unseen target. They plummeted towards the canopy and, just when May thought they would crash into the leaves, the bird spread its wings and levelled out.

Ahead lay a ruin, partially cloaked in vines. It reached up above the treetops, beyond the grip of the climbers and gleamed white in the sunlight. It was like a basket trap, just like the ones stored alongside her uncle’s shed and used by him for catching eels and beetle worms in the lake. The bird headed towards a large window piercing the summit. As it neared the window, it braked, using its wings and its tail feathers, and landed on the broad window cill. May climbed down off Owl’s back onto the cill. The bird hopped down into the dark space beyond.
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Re: Air Song (part of the Song World sequence)

Postby Ariel » Tue Aug 28, 2012 12:20 am

What an interesting story. What happens next?
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Re: Air Song (part of the Song World sequence)

Postby Tony » Wed Aug 29, 2012 2:59 am

Ariel, thanks for reading this.

There will be a jump back to Tiku's time. It tells what it was that happened to him when he went to find the spirits. Then we come back to May's story and how Tiku / Owl departs from the forest world on his search for the spirits home. I will start up a new forum for what I have done so far on Tiku's quest.
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