Yilly was falling, dropping like a rock, every attempt of his to fly, to find the air, falling, failing, freaking out. He had always been going to learn the feel, going to try the short drops with his high-level classmates, but there’d always been something more interesting, something more fun. Now there wasn’t any more time, and he was dropping from the high levels, right down to the flood zone and the river.
And then, there were his friends, his crawling-in-the-catacombs and splashing-in-the-river and staying-up-dancing friends, and there they were, just below him. Yilly cupped air and tried to slow himself. He didn’t want to hurt them, didn’t want to bring them down with them. But they were getting closer, closer. Mirro and Tanny swooped under Yilly and came up under him, grabbing his hands, pulling him up into a wind with them, while Lonoll did something complicated so she was standing up, looking Yilly in the face.
“Feel the air, Yill-ne-yill, find it in your face and your vents. Right there, right… there.”
As always, Lonoll could make sense when nobody else could, and Yilly found, for the first time, the way the air whispered across his vents and pushed up against his glides. “Oh…” It was more a prayer than an exclamation, as he suddenly understood what his parents had been speaking of. “Oh… I’m flying!”
He deserved the chittering Mirro and Tanny gave him, teasing him mercilessly for that one. “You’re flying me,” he allows. They were flying him. “You saved my life.”
“We need you.” Lonoll’s smile was broad, and her vents were tinged with red. Was she…
“Oh.” Another prayer. “But we don’t have a nest.”
“We do.” Mirro’s vents were turning red, too. “We found one. While you were in your high-classes.”
Yilly twitched his vents guiltily. “No more of those for me, not after today. You…” He could feel the wind, now, and shifted his glides and his vents to allow for the warmth of the updraft.
Lonoll took the opportunity to talk over him. “You brought us books, and those worksheets.”
“You went swimming with us, and showed us the secret caves.” Mirro picked up the thread. “And we didn’t mind your high-classes. You brought all that fun stuff back with you.”
“Besides.” Tanny was always more pragmatic. “We need a fourth to be a proper nest-group, so we couldn’t let you fall.”
Yilly laughed, dropped a body-length, and managed to restore his balance. “Good to know you’re thinking of me.”
“Flutter-brain.” Lonoll rubbed against him in a very pointed manner. Yilly swallowed an egg-sized lump of panic; he wasn’t up to that sort of flying yet, even if everyone was getting very red in the vents. “we’re always thinking of you.”
“And our nest.” Mirro rescued him, more or less, tugging him towards the cliff-face. “And our nest-group.”
“Come on.” Tanny fluttered and chattered in amusement. “Let us show you.”
Yilly managed to roll onto his back, catching the drafts as his friends – as his nest-group – tugged him towards the cliff face. Far above, he could see his parents’ nest, up in the highest levels.
He turned back to his nest-group, watching the girls’ vents flutter redder and redder. This was home now.
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