Work Header

Odd Encounters

Chapter Text

In the air again; a little more comfortable this time, but not much. I tried to break the tension (okay, I admit it: tried to distract myself) with a stab at conversation: 'So, about the wings: aren't they supposed to be attached at the waist, not just the shoulders?'.

I expected Clipson to answer, but it was Traroth himself who did: 'Why should they? I'm not a bat. It's only bats and flying squirrels and gliding possums and such things with their wings attached at the waist; all more refined evolutions, like insects, birds, and most of the extinct flying reptiles (except the Longisquamata and other winged lizards) had them attached at the shoulders. Even hummingbirds do, and they're the best flying vertebrates in the world'.

I tried again: 'But even so, the surface ratio;––'

He said: 'It's a mistake to imagine a larger wingspan is attached at more points. An eagle's wings or a ship's sails, or even the wings of a jet-plane, are all attached at a shoulder. That's where evolution begins. Same as I do'.

I tried a third time: 'But even the little flying lizards, which are even called "Draco volans", have the wings attached to the middle of the body'.

He said: 'They glide. I soar. It's a different evolutionary path through the air. I have to flap a little to get into the air; they have to climb. Flying snakes and the Oriental dragons had to spring up, exactly like coiled springs. Jet-planes have to leap'.

Clipson took over: 'He's right: there are ways and ways of getting into the air, and this is one'.

I tried once more: 'But, to lift a body this size;––'.

Traroth snapped: 'Come off it! Does an airplane need its own length and breadth in wingspan to get off the ground?! Does a penguin need as much to stay afloat in the water? Does an elk need pillars for legs, like a hippopotamus? An albatross has narrower wings in proportion than I have, and it stays aloft for days on end! Enough of this rubbish between you and me!'.

I changed the subject: 'Who were those things you rescued us from? Or do you even know?'.

Clipson answered: ‘Only they know what they call themselves! The people of Chiloé call them the Warlocks (Brujería in the original Spanish), or the Council of the Cave. In Russia, they are known as the Readers of the Dark Book. The people of Livonia, and those of Friuli, used to put on wolf’s-head masks, to chase them off. I call them the Dark Order, after a throwaway line in a thriller I read as a boy. They're troublemakers and not much else. World domination and all that jazz. Haven't you met them before?'.

I answered: 'Maybe I have. I remember something;–––' (actually, what I remembered was an adventure rescuing some lost children, and the ghost of Alfred Hitchcock; but I didn't expect him to believe that).

Clipson guessed: 'But not something like you saw today, no? Not quite identical?'.

I admitted: 'No, not quite identical. But same idea'.

So we flew on, with Traroth pointing out the sights as we flew over them, until about sunset, when we stopped in front of a house.

Clipson said: 'This is where we leave you, Odd; though I'd be glad if we meet again. Until then, farewell'.

He clasped my hand in a mock-military way; then he and Traroth took off, and I waited and watched them until I couldn't see them anymore.

Annamaria said: 'Let's go in, odd one. Our hosts will be waiting'.

With that, she led the way inside.