The Migration had begun. Winged people milled around, making it impossible to approach the Dragons in the fields. Still, Lucci kept trying to push forward, for once glad of his unusual height, which allowed him to see above the white feathers and hair.
Suzume was out there somewhere.
Lucci spent the better part of the day shying away from the packing and the sad goodbyes, knowing that he, too, would have to part with his best and only friend. Now that the time to say goodbye was here, Lucci found that it was nearly impossible to find the girl in the swelling crowd.
“Luuuuuci!!” a small, shrill voice cried, catching his attention.
The boy paused, as he finally caught sight of Suzume weaving between adults. The girl pushed through the crowd, sprinting straight for him, arms and wings wide spread. Finally reaching him, she attempted to choke-hug him, like she always did. Only, just as of late, he was a bit too tall for her to reach.
Patiently, Lucci bent down to allow her to throw her arms around his neck. Silver and black hair, they came together, his kneel and her hug of grief. Then the girl began to sob into his shoulder as he patted at her head in confusion.
“Suzume,” her name was the only thing he could think to say. Afterall, Suzume rarely cried about anything.
She didn’t answer for a while, leaving a big wet spot on the front of his shoulder. People watched from a scowling distance, as if almost accusing Lucci of doing something to make the poor girl cry so much.
Finally, Suzume pulled away from him, her dark eyes rung around in red. After a number of hiccups and snivels, she managed to make a few words come out. “You know that they’re making me leave?”
He thought about it for a moment, then nodded slowly. “It’s the Migration.”
“I don’t want to!” she gave a little half-wail.
Lucci puzzled about it a bit more, a fluttering of thoughts drifting through his mind. “But, you’re going the Dragon realms. It’s supposed to be a really nice place. I’ve heard a lot about it.”
“Don’t you understand,” Suzume gave his shoulder a little pound with one fist.
“Understand what?” he blinked at her, dumbfounded.
“They’re making me leave and you’re going to stay! That means I won’t get to see you anymore, Lucci!” And just like that, she burst back into tears.
“What do you mean?” he tilted his head and tried to wipe her tears on his sleeve. It made him feel awful to see her cry so much, but he knew if he let her see his sadness, that he would probably cry, too. And he didn’t want that to happen. “Of course you will. I’ll be coming to Wyndor after we win the fight here.”
“What if something happens to you during the battle? What if you die?” her two little hands clung at the front of his robe.
“I’m pretty sure I won’t die.”
“How do you know?” she sniveled.
“Because Lord Zemi is going to be with me. He’s going to show me how to fight for real.”
“But I don’t want you to go and fight, Lucci! Bad things happen when people fight! And you have to face the big flying monsters, don’t you?” her voice rose an octave for each thing she listed.
“Yeah. But I’m not scared,” Lucci told her with a little smile. “I want to fight because if I do, that means I can help make the Islands a safe place for when you come back.”
“But I thought you just said that you were coming to Wyndor?”
He scratched at the lobe of his ear and frowned, “Well, I think it depends on who wins the fight.”
“What do you mean?” Suzume blinked at him.
“Well, if we win the fight, then that will make it safe for you to come back here. That’s what I really want to happen,” Lucci informed her with a nod. “But if we lose the fight, I think we’ll have to come to stay in Wyndor, too.”
“So either way, that means I’ll still get to see you again, Suzume.”
The girl peered down at her feet, blinking back the tears. It was obvious that she was still upset about something. After a moment, she finally said, “Who will be my friend when you’re not there with me, Lucci?”
Lucci shook his head again. Gently, he reached down and plucked a small lilac flower. A flow of silent silver mist rose around him, tracing the lines of the flower, leaving a pale sparkle upon the petals. Then he reached up and folded the stem of the flower into her hair.
Suzume’s frustration faltered as she gave him a questioning look.
“Keep this flower with you,” Lucci told her, tilting her chin back to peer into his face. “It’s bound to my magic. As long as you have it, I will be with you. As long as it is alive, you’ll know I am still alive. As long as I’m alive, I promise I’ll see you again.”
She sucked in a deep, ragged breath. Then she threw her arms around his neck once again.
“Okay?” Lucci stood up and peered down at her.
“Okay…” the reply was choked with tears.
The tiny lilac flower seemed to pulse with a silver-tinged life of its own, woven there among the strands of dark flowing hair. Though Suzume’s face was sad, her normal determination seemed to be fighting to find its rightful place.
A call rang across the hillside. Dragons began to rise, carrying the large containers of belongings. They shook out massive wings, slung about tails and gave deep bellowing sounds to each other.
The winged people began to say their tearful goodbyes, where hugs and words were exchanged. The morning sun broke free from the clouds, bathing the Island in a new-day’s sunlight.
It was time for the Migration to begin.
Suzume reached out, taking Lucci’s hand in her own, giving it a tiny squeeze. Then she let it go, walking out to join the shadows of the winged people that spread over the grass. She gave one last look from over her shoulder as she vanished among them.
Lucci watched the huge Dragons spreading their wings. One by one, the great beasts took to the skies as if they bore no burden at all. Gusts from their wings caused the leaves of the trees to scatter, raining across the crowds that spoke their mournful farewells to the city of Ceiswyr.
In small flocks they took flight. Some held hands as they lifted off, gathering strength from each other or guiding the youngest from going astray through the misty morning clouds.
Lucci didn’t know how far away Wyndor was, except that it was a place that lay beyond the borders of the Inner Realms. He didn’t know how long it would take for the people of Ceiswyr to fly there, but he knew that it wasn’t going to be an easy pilgrimage for them to make.
The Dragons served as guides, as well. The great beasts winged about, each of them gathering up a number of Cyngan under their golden, watchful eyes. The sky began to fill with shimmers of fluttering white, the wings of the flock catching and reflecting the morning sunlight like day-stars. The rainbowed hues of the Dragons spun in and out of the diamond dapples, leaving an after-impression of brilliant color and light.
Yet, the sky hung with the sense of deep sadness. The sorrow of those journeying far away from home, not knowing if they would ever to return to it again. Their graceful flight was a lonely sort of beauty, touching the undersides of the clouds with mourning. Very slowly, they began to fade off over the horizon.
Lucci’s silver eyes watched them vanish, searching for the one spot of darkness among the light. Something of him was with them, and felt their flight — the cool winds on his face, the lightness of their limbs, despite the fact he had no wings of his own.
When the last shimmer of wings and color faded, the sky became a lonely place.