“There they are, look.” Palor pointed.
The group of Condor were sitting on a mountain, and staring far down into the forest at the foot of it with their eyes. Condor people, in addition to having immense strength and fortitude, also have the ability to see great distances with their eyes. The Plainkind folk have such an ability too, though they use it for hunting in the deserts, whereas I believe the Condor developed it for seeing prey on the ground from above.
Someone said, “Look, are they being attacked?”
“Yes, by a dark-haired forest people. They look wild.”
“And pale,” Gwenhime added.
And that was the extent of the mission. They did stay another few nights and saw that the Sollussa people had settled in the forest, creating a great clearing to deter attack, increase visibility, and for building and firewood. But after four days, they left, back to the other side of the planet.
Palor told her, as they approached their own village, “We will watch them, once a year I suspect. Though, sooner in the first few years in case they move from this settlement.”
“Oh. Yes.” That is all? Was what she really wanted to ask. The task seemed so grand and yet, the true goal would be achieved in a century, wouldn’t it. Gwenhime was disappointed, but she said nothing. No doubt this small quest would not change her place in her community. But she was finally able to shed her wings, and heal her mind.
And truly, it did not. The next century passed in solitude and misery, with some small joys here and there.
But she was sent again on most of the other monitoring missions. They went every second month for the next two years (so that they could regrow their wings), and then it was every half year until the ten-year mark. Finally, for the remaining century, they watched annually. Gwenhime learned the names of the party, for it was the same group of seven every time. The woman who had ignored her was Fazan. The tall man she had stopped herself from having emotions for was Atratus. There was also a young criminal named Gryphus, for whom these trips were part of punishment.
Though very few of these trips were eventful, there were a handful that held interest to Gwenhime. Let me relate them.
Halfway through the second year, there was a particularly severe attack on the village. Fazan had determined that the forest people were not overly familiar with fire. There appeared to be some who, on cold nights or rainy days, could kindle one. Apart from these (who Fazan assumed must be the intelligent from among them, for they were rarely the leaders) it seemed very few knew the art of firemaking.
Gwenhime herself once watched from the mountain ridge. She had returned alone one frigid fall evening, while the rest of the group had returned to the camp they had hid away in the mountains. She saw, spying on the forest people, that those who knew the ways of fire held some sort of reverence. She watched one woman, an immodest bullish beauty who wore only a long pair of blackened pants, huge belt, and her waist-length hair as clothing, strike two stones into a small pile of kindling, which caught an ember and started to smoke.
The young Condor flew down and found an elevated section of the wood, landing on an unusually tall oak tree. It was one of those oaks that sticks out far above the treetops, as if it has some sort of great pride in its strength. Here she had cut the distance by less than a third, and her Condor eyes kept the sight of this fire woman clear. It was very cold here, with no mountain or trees blocking the air. She huddled inside her wings, perched atop the tree, hoping that if she was seen, they would assume she was some sort of large bird.
The woman stepped back, even though there was only small embers. Another person, a man, stepped in. He looked incredibly strong, and was dressed the same. Gwenhime wondered if this was some sort of special costume for the firemakers; these dark pants and nothing else. She also noticed, now that she was closer, that there was quite a lot of equipment, simple tools she assumed, attached to this belt. He bent down and blew into the embers, creating a flame, and then stepped back as a crowd made noises in awe. Then he leaned in again and blew and the flame disappeared, as it does, in his wind. After he finished, it came back; larger. Again, Gwenhime heard their awed noises. These two were, she thought, perhaps seen as mystics of some sort, who had this special technique of magic. How strange primitive people were.
Now the woman returned and took from her belt what Gwenhime first thought was a sword, but soon realized was in fact a reed, or maybe a tube of some large grass. This she now used to blow into the flames, to add air to the fire. Then, the male firemaker turned his eyes up past the trees and looked right at Gwenhime. She froze in shock, and then he smiled and turned back to the flames. She had expected the smile to further disturb her, but it didn’t. She felt something unusual and warm burn inside her.
But she was caught, wasn’t she? She felt very uncomfortable as she watched the male use his own tube, and than the female take out another flat stick, which she flicked into a fan and then fanned the flames. As the ritual continued, Gwenhime flew back to the mountain. It was getting dark now, and they would likely begin some form of reveling. She would not watch.
But this wasn’t a ritual like the previous ones. They were readying themselves for war. The next day, the forest people descended onto the Sollussa, ready to feast.