Alright, fine. Everyone wants to know the story and I don’t want to have to tell it a million times or hear about it anymore so this is the story.
It needs to be kept strictly confidential and should be shared only with those who have a need to know. If you don’t need to know, keep your nose outta here!
I was born in 2025, only a few years after the magic started coming back. I was, oh, twelve, I think when my wings came in. It took about a week, and they were the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. My parents didn’t think so. That’s okay. They never liked much about me anyway. I was more trouble than I was worth during times that were pretty tough. I have come to terms with them and my youth a long time ago anyway and it’s none of y’all’s business so I won’t say any more on that except to say that I up and left home shortly after that.
Of course, I was way too young to do that and things were tough for me at first. It was bad enough being a kid run away from home, but add the wings and it was a challenge. I found out that some people are mighty kind and others are mighty cruel pretty darn fast. Eventually, I made my way to a sort of refuge for early wingers. We were like gypsies or circus folk. We weren’t really welcome in any town but we could make a few bucks putting on a show as long as we didn’t hang around. We didn’t have much, but we had each other and it was so much better not to be alone. We would teach each other flying tricks and work on comedy acts to please the paying public.
We also spent a lot of time researching our wings and how the birds that have them use them. My beauties were owl wings. My flight was so silent that my shtick was soaring in from the back of the tent silently to scare the crowd. It was a blast!
In a little town in western Italy near the border with France, we were doing a show, and I heard some jerks talking about how they were going to hunt some strange creature off in the mountains. Apparently, it had been taking livestock and a friend of a friend had seen it flying off with a calf just the week before. They weren’t sure that they believed that until they saw our show. Now they believed and they were going to hunt it down and kill it.
Now we also have griffins and hippogriffs with our troop. While not dumb by any means, they aren’t human and we haven’t found a way to communicate with them yet to know just how smart they might be. We took them in and we have them as a part of the show though and while we pay them in room and board, we ensure they are well cared for and that the humans feel safe.
I found myself wondering just what this creature was and if we shouldn’t hunt it down ourselves in order to save it. These people were pretty intent on killing it, and whatever it was, it didn’t deserve that for doing what its nature said it should do. I talked to the others and they felt we should stay out of it. ‘We don’t know what it is and besides, we need to move on.’
I couldn’t do that. I couldn’t just desert this poor creature to its fate at the hand of these locals. If we hadn’t been able to talk and defend ourselves, that could just as easily have been us. Heck, if we stayed to long, it would be us. I knew our route and I told the others I’d meet up with them at the next stop or the one after. They just shook their heads and we said our see you later’s.
That night, after the show, I packed a bag with some food and supplies and headed out towards the mountain range where the men said it was last seen heading. I made some good distance and made myself a camp for the day. You might say I’m a bit of a night owl. I searched the next few nights, going further and further into the mountains. I found a few likely caves and valleys but had no luck. I figured I could spend another day or two max before I needed to start making my way back to the others.
The next night there was a big storm. When it finally cleared out at just about dawn I settled on a mountain and looked into the valley below. This was a pretty country where no one had settled because the terrain is just too harsh. Humans are social creatures and while some might be okay for a bit, no one wanted to be this far away from medical care and food; not to mention the internet. As I looked across the valley and started thinking about how best to meet my friends again, I saw a small stream of smoke rising up from the next ridge. Smoke, huh. That might mean some men out hunting, or it could be something like a phoenix or maybe just another winger out hiding from the humans. I decided to check it out.
When I got near I circled, trying to get a good view. I needed to drop down quite a bit to see that the smoke was curling up from some trees in front of a cave. It was spring, so the ground and foliage were wet. I didn’t think it was likely to catch and turn into a forest fire. I mean, really it was only smoldering anyway. I was about to pull up and away since I figured it was caused by lightning from the storm last night. That’s when I saw the bodies. It looked like it was three men and some dogs.
I should have left right then and there. It’s not like I could carry them, or even that I would tell anyone. If I tried to explain that I had found three men and their dogs burned to death out in the woods, they would undoubtedly think I was responsible. Maybe I was thinking they deserved a decent burial, but I didn’t have a shovel or any way to dig a grave. I was in the mountains, sure, but I wasn’t thinking cairns. I wasn’t thinking at all. I was all of sixteen and stupid, really stupid.
I touched down in the only place I could, between the men and the mountain. I saw them lying there, facing the mountain, half-melted guns in their hands. I saw the dogs spread around the face of the mountain. I saw the cave. They had found the creature I was looking for the last two days. It was hiding in the cave. It would be scary and dangerous. I was young and stupid. I headed for the cave. I started a stream of talking about how I was a friend and how I was going to help. I told it I was going to keep men from hunting it and it would be safe and welcome with me. I didn’t know if it would understand, I just wanted to sound calm and reassuring. I knew that when these men didn’t come back, others would follow and whatever creature this was, it would be killed. I had to try.
I was about fifty feet into the cave when I saw the flames coming toward me. Instinct made me wrap my wings around my body and huddle down. Then the pain started and I heard screaming. I heard myself screaming. And there was pain, so much pain in my outer wing. I passed out for a bit and it was sweet relief.
When I struggled back to consciousness the pain was less, but still very present. A woman had my wing spread and was putting a salve on it. She was lovely; with long chestnut hair pulled into braids and wide dark blue eyes, she possessed a grace I knew I would never have. Her hands were gentle and the salve soothing. She looked over and caught my glance. “Sleep,” she said and I must have because the next thing I remember was waking up again next to a campfire (which probably should have spooked me but didn’t). She was across from me watching me.
“What happened?” I said, followed by, “who are you?”
“My name is @[Emilia Koehler](person:fb103bab-8060-4fb4-94c6-81003fb97b6f) and I live here.” She sounded German though she was speaking Italian fluently.
“Here? In the mountains?” I asked incredulously. No one lived this deep into the mountains.
“Yes. Specifically here in this cave, though not for much longer I suspect. Who are you and what brought you here?” she asked.
I ignored that she hadn’t told me how she had found me or what happened to whatever had sent flames my way, and told her my name and the story of why I was in the mountains.
“So you came to rescue a creature you knew nothing about?” she sounded surprised.
I unfurled my wings a bit and winced as the pain hit. “I figured I had a few things in common with it.” I explained.
“Yes.” she cocked her head to one side. “How does it feel?”
“It hurts but it’s much better. Thank you for taking care of me.”
“I owe you that and much more,” she said.
“What exactly happened?” I asked.
“Can I trust you, Sals?” she asked.
I’m not sure why but I knew her question held a far deeper meaning than it appeared to on the surface. She really meant trust with a capital “T,” not the average trust. I pondered it for a while, and she let me have the time. “Yes.” I finally stated firmly while meeting her eyes.
“I am the creature you came to the mountains to rescue. When the others attacked me with their dogs and weapons I defended myself. They had somehow managed to actually wound me with those strange devices they carry, and when you arrived I thought you were more of the same and lashed out. For that I have a deep sorrow, Sals of the pure heart.” she said.
I wasn’t sure what to say to that. She certainly didn’t look like a creature, nor like someone that could throw fire around like what had hit me, but the world is a strange place as I had found out from a young age. “I forgive you,” I said.
“That is kind of you, but you do not know what you forgive. Not entirely. My flames, the damage they have done will never fully heal. You will not hurt, but your wing will remain without the feathers that were burned. I have stolen something priceless from you that I can never repay.”
Oh, gods! I wouldn’t fly again? Ever? I was struck for a time with the pain of the loss. She silently watched me and waited for the attack she knew would come. The only thing was, I just didn’t have it in me to hold it against her. I’m sure I would be able to fly at least a little, glide if nothing else, and she wore her heart on her sleeve. Her remorse was seeping into the rocks around us.
“Yeah. Okay. That really, really sucks. And I still forgive you.” I struggled with the words. “I know you didn’t mean to hurt me, you were hurt too and defending yourself.”
“You have a truly great soul, Sals,” she said meeting my eyes. “Do you feel strong enough to see my true form?” she asked.
What an odd question, but hey, I knew she wasn’t human. Not if she was flying and carrying off-farm animals. She also wasn’t a griffin nor any other flying creature I had seen. “Sure,” I said, trying to sound certain.
She smiled a little at that and then she was a dragon. A dragon. A DRAGON! She was a lovely shade of bronze throughout her body with a slender arching neck, horns atop her head, the most beautiful dark red wings. Her eyes, though, were still the same dark blue that could see right through me. I was in awe. She was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen. I would have been happy to just sit there and watch her till the end of my days.
Time passed as we stayed in the cave. She kept the fire going, tended my wing, and brought food. She explained that the properties of dragon fire would keep me from ever healing entirely. She did think that I would be able to glide and such, but not truly fly again. She was obviously struggling with something she wanted to talk to me about. I wasn’t sure what.
Our conversations ranged from when she had woken up, she assured me that she had not hatched in this time, to my youth, to the return of magic, to basic history of the last hundred plus years. She listened attentively and asked many questions, though I did not know all of the answers.
Then one day she addressed me directly over dinner. “Sals, I have reached a decision. I will guard the wingers,” she stated.
“I’m sure you have heard the legend that dragons have hoards,” I nodded.
“I have decided that the wingers will be my hoard in this new world.”
“Uh, I thought you hoarded gold?” I said doubtfully.
“Whoever told you that?” she said, looking both shocked and appalled. “We hoard things that we find precious. For some it was gold, others precious gems, yet others hoarded knowledge, or art. As we are each unique, we each hoard what we find precious. I used to hoard the woodlands and her creatures. At that time there were no wingers.”
“I have listened to your tales of the world, and I can see that while the woodlands are in desperate need of a protector, the wingers have a more dire need. And in no small part, the damage I have done to you has shown me that I need to do my part for you and your kind. We are so closely related, and you are so new to your magic. You all need guidance as you grow to your full potential.”
I wasn’t sure what to make of that but I knew that she had decided and that I would help her.
From there we began to plan how to best ‘hoard’ wingers in the world. The rest you know. We gathered precious metals from the mountain and started Rook, Inc. From there she started the Courier business as a front and money-making tool to help raise and protect wingers across the globe. We started in New Houston because it was a new community that embraced magic and magical beings. When it was time to expand she moved on and left me here to run things for her. And that’s what I have been doing ever since.