Kay Townson – Deakin University
Celestria’s laughter sang through the air as I followed her through the forest. I dodged beneath the thick, coarse branch of a capirona and heard the whistle-thwack of an arrow hitting its dense grey wood. Gradd’s deep bellow echoed under the Amazonian canopy, his voice further away this time. “Fucking insolent brats! I swear if I catch ya in my territories again I’ll rip ya damn wings off!” Ahead of me Celestria laughed again, her high, sweet voice tinkling like a wind chime. I shook my head at her even as I flew at full speed, I couldn’t see her through the thick foliage but I could find the source of that laugh anywhere.
A delighted squeal threatened to burst my eardrums and against all sense I followed it to the woman responsible. Celestria had dropped about fifty feet and sat herself on the vine of a deep grey strangler fig to take in the view. Her long legs were crossed beneath her, covered by the deep purple dress she wore that left her back and wings bare. I paused for a moment to take in the view of her like that, her auburn hair braided to the side, her transparent wings visible only in the way that they sparkled in the sparse light that hit them. I tucked my own wings in and let myself fall, only reopening my wings at the last moment to land lightly beside her.
I sat beside her and leaned against the smooth fig, idly running my hand along the unyielding wood. Her voice was soft when she spoke. “I forget to look sometimes. To take in the forest, to appreciate it for its beauty and not just what it does for us.” I murmured some form of agreement and looked up. Giant trees stood as high as two hundred feet and below that, a canopy of green leaves, each one bigger than I was, fighting for a position in the sun’s light. Yellow trumpet flowers bloomed and vibrant blue water lilies flourished across the surface of a small stream that led off the Amazon River. Near the forest floor it was cool and dark, almost black despite it being the middle of the day. Only the smallest rays of sunlight made it through the canopy and yet no matter how faint they were every leaf within five feet bent towards it, in the hopes of just a little more sustenance. As my eyes lowered to the ground, amongst the twigs and roots that littered across it a brown lizard snapped out its tongue to catch a fly.
I smiled at her, “I’m glad it’s ours.”
She shook her head slightly. “But it’s not really is it? Every family has territory except for us. We have nowhere to go except the free territories. We’re forced to risk our lives trespassing every day, just to live.”
“But look at what we mean for the Forest Folk Celestria. We proved that the humans don’t have all the power just because they’re six times our size. We survived. We’re still surviving.”
She pulled away from me as I reached for her, her jaw set, her fists tight and the bitterness in her voice palpable “and both my parents and yours had to die for us to survive.”
We were considerably slower as we flew along, each lost in our own thoughts. I spotted a chicle tree and headed towards it, the flutter of Celestria’s wings letting me know she was following. We descended on our meal with vigour, stripping away the loose bark to get to the sweet chewy sap underneath. The air was unusually chill and even sitting I kept moving my wings to try and keep warm. Something wasn’t sitting right and it wasn’t just the temperature. Celestria’s large blue eyes turned to me as I tilted my head to the side.
“What is it?” She sounds worried but I can’t bring myself to comfort her.
“It’s the forest. It’s quiet.”
She frowned “where are the birds? The other animals?”
She stood abruptly, her entire figure going rigid. And then I heard it too, that harsh echoing grind was unmistakeable; ten years had not dimmed the memory of that heart wrenching noise.
A tear slipped down Celestria’s cheek as she shook her head back and forth violently, her braid whipping back and forth. Her voice was barely above a whisper “no”.
She turned to me then, her shoulders pushed back and her chin high “I won’t let them Killian, not again.” And with that she leaped off the branch we’d been resting on and flew.
I can’t fly any faster but I still can’t see Celestria ahead of me through the trees. I can’t hear her either, but I know where she’s going; closer to the source of that piercing racket. My sweat feels as if it is freezing against my skin and all my concentration is focused on dodging branch after branch.
I’m slowing down as the forest becomes lighter, as I get closer to the edge. I see Celestria at the base of a kapoktree, a quick glimmer of light reflecting from her wings before she disappears between the roots.
I recognise the tree as one of the many we use as stashes and I fly inside, being careful not to scrape my wings on roots that are thicker than I am tall. Inside, the deep brown of the tree is covered by a thick layer of spongy green moss, and from protruding twigs hang two bows with quivers from where we had stored them a year before.
Neither of us speaks as we each sling a quiver between our wings, grab a bow and fly up to a branch of the kapok, roughly ten feet from the ground.
Ahead are almost a hundred tree stumps, the pale brown and greys of their inner trunks bared to the sun, surrounded by nothing but twigs and dirt. The loss of these ancient trees, brutally taken by men who are now lying about under the sun, reeking of sweat and guzzling from plastic bottles of water, makes my heart clench.
The harsh smell of acetic acid burns my nose, the chill of the air pricks my skin and the direct light of the sun makes my eyes water in an attempt cool the one part of me that feels as if it is burning.
Yet none of that compares to the undiluted rage that surges through my veins as one by one these human beasts stand, dust themselves off and pick up their weapons. Each of these orange boxes has a long grey arm growing from its front, with moving blades coating its grotesque appendage.
A woman yells at them, her words foreign to me and yet her anger transcends language. She stands between one man and the capirona he’s heading towards and is roughly shoved away.
A rustle behind us makes my ears twitch and a quick glance confirms it. At least a hundred Forest Folk are flying towards us, ducking beneath branches and weaving around trees.
Celestria’s eyes don’t move from the men as the machines start up, grinding and whining to life. Standing mere inches away from her, I can barely hear her voice over the awful racket.
“They’ll try and stop us, Killian. They won’t understand this is different from the Folk wars of old. Humans don’t care for our borders; they’ll destroy all our homes and keep going.”
I reach out and touch her arm. “I know.”
As one we leap from the branch, bows in hand, and fly towards the man who’d assaulted the angry woman. The pitted grey blade touches the outer bark of the capirona and turns it’s screeching into a deep drone, whilst unheard; two arrows soar through the air, each piercing a tanned hand.
I bare my sharp teeth in a grin when the man screams and drops his weapon. The surrounding humans turn to look and one of them steps towards him, only to be met with an arrow embedding itself in his shoulder, eliciting a surprised groan.
He pulls it out and stares in horror as blood pours forth.
The woman points at where we’re hovering in front of the endangered tree and yells something in their language.
Thirty human faces stare at us, mouths and eyes wide.
One steps forward, a hand reaching out towards us and our arrows hit the dry brown earth at his feet, halting him.
A hundred more arrows puncture the soil beside them.
Behind us, Gradd leads an army of Forest Folk, each armed with bows and knives. He stops next to us and looks from Celestria to me and back again.
“We’re with ya kids, this is our forest and they ain’t takin’ no more of it.”
A cheer rises up from the Folk behind us and they brandish their weapons, causing the humans to take a collective step back.
The woman holds up a small black thing the size of her hand and it makes a clicking noise. Gradd turns to her, weapon ready, but Celestria lays a hand on his arm and smiles;
“She’s on our side.”
He nods at Celestria before his deep bellow reverberates through the manmade clearing.
Kay Townson is a student of writing, literature and history. She spends her spare time reading, writing and spending time with close friends whilst juggling full-time study and a part-time job. She is a passionate feminist as well as a lover of ancient mythology and history.