CHAPTER ONE: SPIES
The dapple grey soresta stallion shook his long grey mane uncertainly, his handsome face bearing a troubled expression. Why? Why did every Season of Birth bring less newlings then the last? And why did every Season of Death brings down more elders? The Season of Hunger was always murdering more lush grass, the Season of Growth never reviving enough of the food or making the scallings and ashlings any bigger.
The Season of Ice turned their water sources more solid than ever, and even the Season of Sun, the presumably most enjoyable of the six Hellagon Seasons, of sunbathing and fresh drinking, clear high flights and the most delicious plantations, was always overrated these days.
Skymane be with us! Silverheart exclaimed in his worried mind. What have we done to insult the Sanfrose so much as to make them turn their backs on us? Silverwind shook his flowing mane loose once more, trying to rid his head of nagging anxieties that would not stop, but of course it didn't work.
He wondered if the other flampades were having such troubles. They were probably off just fine, since most of them ate meat as well as vegetation, and also had much larger territories. But if they weren't well off... it would be a message from the Sanfrose, a warning telling the flampades that something was off, that there was something around that they didn't like.
"Greyscale! Get Flowerpetal, Cloudscale and Brambletooth for me," he called to the young battle leader that was wandering nearby. Later, he would consult a meeting with all three sufframors and ten battle leaders, but for now he just needed to ask those three. That meant Cloudscale, the old and scarred battle leader and Brambletooth, the pretty sufframor.
And Flowerglade, his close-one, would always help him with such decisions. That was what he had chosen her for, as well as her dreamy looks.
Greyscale whistled for the three, and they cantered towards Silverwind.
"What is it?" asked Cloudscale with an excited glint in his piercing sky blue eyes. Battle leaders, always excited for anything that may concern warfare. But that was what they earned the title of 'scale' for, their eagerness, as well s polished skills and great leadership. They took the responsibility of leading a hundred warrior mares and stallions each, and meeting with the soresta them self, with great pride.
Brambletooth was more subdued, as she was younger then Cloudscale, yet more wizened, and to those with the title of 'tooth' war meant only death, unnecessary sacrifice, and the usage of their herbal remedies that would be much better used for unavoidable injuries rather than ones inflicted from something brought, in most cases, upon themselves.
When it came to war, Silverwind's blood raced with the adrenaline rush, but his mind made sure that war was always from a good reason. His level head yet battle skills awed the Sielfaci of Air Flampade, and had gotten him the title of 'wind' in the Tournament of the New Soresta.
While Brambletooth dreaded the surely coming battle and Cloudscale anticipated keenly, Flowerpetal, being his close-one, knew just from Silverwind's thoughtful expression that that was not what was coming.
"No no, it's not that, is it?" the beautiful young mare asked, her face now matching Silverwind's but with curiosity as well as the deep thought. "It's something else. Silverwind, what is upon your mind?"
Silverwind tossed his head. "I was thinking about what the Seasons are bringing on us - hunger, thirst, and rapidly decreasing head counts of the flampade. What have we done to make the Sanfrose turn their backs on us?" There was some murmuring from the three Sielfaci.
"Nothing," Flowerpetal finally answered. "Nothing that us four highest ranking ones know of. So why have they done so, Silverwind? Or is that what you are consulting us about?"
"No, not that," Silverwind replied. "If we have done nothing, or so we assume, then have the other flampades done some terrible deed?"
"And so we must find out if they have?" Flowerpetal said.
"Yes. We must. And that is why I have called you forth. Would spies be a good conclusion to this question?"
"Yes! Spies, yes," Cloudscale said eagerly. "Definitely spies."
"I suppose so," Brambletooth, forever sensible, said.
"A good a conclusion as any, dear Silverwind," Flowerpetal finished.
"So it is settled then," said Silverwind. "Flowerpetal, organize four spies to depart to each of the territories at sunrise tomorrow, will you?"
"Yes Silverwind," replied Flowerpetal.
The sun peeked over the horizon the next morning, sending pink and golden rays flooding the clouds that four Sielfaci were piercing and scattering as they soared upwards, engaging in their dangerous mission.
Silverwind watched their predominantly white bodies, a or two with wings of a light shade of something colourful, fade to black as they effortlessly beat their wings a few times and then glided high above the clouds. He could just make out their shapes now as they flung up their heads and tilted their humongous Air Flampade wings back, rocketing even higher. Flowerpetal had chosen good spies, they knew to fly high to evade the sight of onlookers from the ground.
But even though he had solved his problems with the spies, he was still pacing nervously. Because the spies had been told to come back after one week, and only earlier if there was an emergency or enough information was gathered. And in the last week, three of his herd members had died, including his own sire.
Quicksilver was the one who had gotten him into the highest rank of soresta. He had been a batte leader at one stage, Quickscale, but at the age of 50 had had to retire, as is the rules with battle leaders. But in the 45 years that he was in that position, his battalion of warrior mares and stallions only ever lost five steeds. Quicksilver would’ve been a battle leader all his life if he could. All this was the reason that he became one of the highest ranking Sielfaci in Air Flampade, the highest ranking battle leader.
Silverwind remembered the days as a newling and a scalling, of carrying his head with pride knowing who his father was, happily saying that he was Silverstorm, son of Windcloud and Quickscale, highest ranking battle leader of Air Flampade.
Quicksilver had left them much too soon. He had left the green grass of Hellagon much too soon to join the twinkling Sanfrose above, since the average lifespan of a Sielfaci is 60 - 70 years. He had been elderly, but had always remained with the sparkling eyes of a battle leader.
Silverwind would always remember the day that Quicksilver had passed.
It was only a Season ago. The Season of Ice it had been. The ponds were all frozen over, so they had to put pressure on the snow and drink the small amount of water that bubbled up from it. Quicksilver, forever wanting to serve his flampade, had gone looking for a water source, thin ice that could be broken or a patch of melting snow.
No one really knew what happened next, but they found his body and were able to piece it together from there. He had found a puddle, a good deep one, and had landed next to it. Quicksilver had been about to turn and tell his son, the soresta, about it, but never gotten the chance, as mysterious warriors from another flampade, no one knew who they were or where they came from, dropped in and killed Quicksilver. He must have been heavily outnumbered for them to bring him down.
The cruel death of his sire was just another problem to add to his long list of troubles. Silverwind was dying to solve the mystery and have revenge on the flampade that had killed Quicksilver, but he just didn’t know who had done it. His flampade would mostly agree with his decision to war on another flampade, since Quicksilver had done so much for all of them. But did he really want war over the death of one Sielfaci, no matter how important?
Silverwind found himself shaking out his long grey mane once more. It was his general reaction to discovering yet another worry. If only it worked to clear my mind, he thought forlornly to himself. But it didn’t, so he would just have to bear with his anxieties like a true soresta did. Quicksilver hadn’t gone through all the effort of convincing the previous soresta for the right to be his asherguard (dams and sires of ashlings aren’t allowed that position) and then training him hard for the Tournament of the New Soresta for him to be weak and push aside his troubles. No, a soresta didn’t ignore his troubles, they confronted them. And so that was what Silverwind would have to do. Which, again, just added to the list...
Silverwind’s troubles seemed endless, but at least he had his beloved Flowerpetal at his side to help him through the twisting and churning river of being a soresta. Especially at times as bad as what Air Flampade was now facing. Thank the Sanfrose for Flowerpetal, she was a textbook close-one of the soresta (sometimes known as a sorestess) and more. He loved that mare. She was the only thing keeping his head above the currents. But would he have to duck under, view the endless seeming list, to be able to confront them? He sighed. The sun was fully risen, and he had a long day of leading his flampade to face before he swam under the surface.