THE WEAVERS OF AMIRRA
Part IV: The Warriors of Amirra
Tell me the story of a hero and I will write a song to break your heart.
Queen Jillierra in “The Rise and Fall of Amirra”
45. Whitebird Must Fly
There was utter, indissoluble silence. There were no shouts of the archers or the defenders at the causeway gates, no clash of metal from the battle on the walls or sound of the river. Nothing. Not even birds. Whitebird thought he must be dreaming. He’d carried the King and the Fire Weaver. There was no higher honor—he would be Helm Stheel. Suddenly he was running in the pasture in Sapphire where he was foaled. His dam was at his side, the great warhorse Whitehawk; he saw her pale, creamy shoulder and neck in the corner of his eye and her long mane streaming in the wind. His hooves sank into the rich loam with a thrilling impact that propelled him faster. He tasted the wind in his nostrils and on his tongue; the bite of it stung his eyes. His blood raced for the sheer love of running. But he was winded.
Far, far off a faint voice called but the wind and his great lungs sucking huge gulps of air drowned out the voice.
“Whitebird,” the voice called again.
Whitebird, his mother said.
“Whiiiitebirrrrrrd.” The calling voice was so familiar.
Stay, his mother chided.
I have to go, he told her.
“Whitebird,” the well-known voice called, louder.
It is time for you to stay, his mother, Whitehawk whispered.
He could no longer run. His legs were trembling and his great lungs couldn’t fill. He fell.
“Whitebird,” the voice demanded. He loved that voice. It was Jaspne’s voice.
Time to sleep, Whitebird, his mother, Whitehawk sang. He struggled to rise but he had no strength.
No, he shouted. I must go. Jaspne and the king—the Fire Weaver—I must fight with them.
“Whitebird,” Jaspne called urgently. Whitebird felt Jaspne’s arms around his neck, pulling him back.
“Jaspne,” he murmured softly in his throat. The arms tightened, hands stroked his neck. His ears twitched; the hands stroked them.
“Whitebird, come on big guy. Whitebird.” Jaspne’s voice sounded desperate, fearful.
Don’t be afraid, Jaspne, Whitebird said.
A muzzle touched him, blew warmly on his neck, then on his face and nose.
Whitehawk—mother? he asked.
No, said a strange Voice. I am Northstar, battle mount of Kieran Sealkin. You are cold.
You aren’t Stheel, Whitebird said, surprised a mere Mount could talk to him in Stheel language.
Whitebird, his mother called. You must come.
“Whitebird,” Jaspne’s voice sobbed. “Whitebird, stay with me, my beauty.”
I must stay. I must carry the King, he said.
The king is dead, Northstar told him.
The King is here, his mother said. You must carry the King.
And Whitebird remembered that his mother had died the year the White Queen sent him to Highhold.
“Whitebird,” Jaspne’s voice was awash with pain.
Whitebird. It was the King’s Voice. Will you carry me again?
The King stood in tall boots in the deep grass of the pasture, a light so bright around him he was translucent. His hair was bright gold and his sword gleamed in his gloved hand. Whitebird’s sister was there too, the swift-footed Yellowhawk who was the favorite horse of the King’s bride from the sea. The King’s consort Seafire—the desert Princess—was on Yellowhawk’s back with no saddle, her burning hair haloed around her. Then, Whitebird remembered that Seafire and Yellowhawk had fallen to their death when the Fire Weaver was a baby.
Yes, King, Whitebird told him. But what about Moonraker. Can he not carry you?
You are Helm Stheel. You will be First Stheel. Carry me now and we will run with the wind
But the Fire Weaver—
She will be safe. She has Marsala.
Whitebird, run with us, Yellowhawk begged.
Whitebird, his mother said. It is time to go.
“Whitebird,” Jaspne choked.
I have to go, Jaspne, Whitebird told him. I must carry the King. And the great, creamy Stheel surged to his feet, his hooves sinking into the deep grass. The King mounted easily with no saddle and tangled his hands into Whitebird’s long white braids as they thundered like the wind across the waving sea of grass.
“Whitebird,” Jaspne whispered. “Run with your great ancestors…” He felt the last breath go out of the courageous Stheel. His tears fell on Whitebird’s alabaster neck.