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Worlds Apart

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Horizon sighed, watching her wild cousins spiral and dance effortlessly above the windswept salt haze from her perch atop the watchtower, absentmindedly fidgeting with the edges of her scratchy scale-covered vest. It had been a birthday gift, crafted by the hands of one parent from the sheddings of the other, equal parts touching and humiliating. Wearing it seemed an admission of defeat, surrendering to the notion that her own scales might never grow in. A superficial proxy, covering over the holes in her patchwork phenotype. It made her feel even more like an impostor, but a painfully abrupt lesson and an embarrassing convalessence rag-bath was all it had taken to persuade her of its necessity: if she wanted to fly amongst her cousins, learning the steps of their dance firsthand, it was the only way to get them to treat her as kin rather than kindling. Even then, it had its risks. Her unkempt, downy wings were still clumsy, despite her trying to practice with them ever since they'd developed enough to properly carry her weight, and the dawngliders often decorated their acrobatics with plumes of flame.

Innate heat resistance was another trait Horizon had failed to inherit, so she'd had to learn a healthy respect for fire, endlessly studying how it flowed and grew and breathed. Eventually, the fire had begun to respect her in turn; she'd been such a patient listener, and it gave her a chance to speak as well. Her inner fire had always sprung forth readily, but with a bit of focus and gentle persuasion she was able to coax forth the flame dormant within all things. Recently, through her sky-dancing, she'd begun to learn the language of the wind, too. When her wings ached from overexertion, she and the air would stop for a rest together, the sky silently holding her aloft on an invisible perch, to the bafflement of her dance partners.

It was not a physical ache that gnawed at her now, however. She absentmindely stroked the scales of her vest, their perfectly-tesselated curves a soothing rhythm against her fingertips, closing her eyes, remembering to breathe. Even as the disguise granted her a freedom, it confined her in other ways, and she perpetually bristled at the constriction whenever she wore it. She had to wear a different sort of uncomfortable facade when performing the dances of the humans, too; dances of words and expectations, steps and patterns she'd had to learn by rote, exercises that made her mind sore from the repetitive motions. Most of the time, there was nowhere to make a perch for herself, and she constantly feared that her fatigue would lead her to another misstep -- a collison that would send her plummeting into social disgrace. Everyone else seemed to take to those currents as naturally as the feathered serpents swam through the skies, and the unfair ease of their navigation frustrated her to no end.

Horizon had gotten good at both kinds of dances by now, good enough that none of the others could see how much it exhausted her. Of late, though, she'd become increasingly certain that she didn't truly belong in either of those worlds. Her parents supported and encouraged her, offering endless advice on how to blend in better in their respective realms, and she was genuinely grateful for the help; but all of it was burdensome masks. They didn't understand that she was made of more than fragments of themselves, that her soul was something of its own.

And yet... she knew that there was at least someone, somewhere, who would be able to understand. She pulled a tattered codex from her satchel, opening it to the last page, fixing the final words in her mind once more, repeating it to herself as a mantra of hope. Then she nodded, closing the book with a snap of determination, all of her hesitancy and turmoil crystallizing into resolve. Her true home was out there, and she would find it. Fixing her eyes on her namesake, she took to the skies.

Belong, friend. We wait for you joyously.